Water Resources Management

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 303–317 | Cite as

Role of Transformative Capacity in River Basin Management Transformations

  • Aleksi RäsänenEmail author
  • Paula Schönach
  • Alexandra Jurgilevich
  • Milja Heikkinen
  • Sirkku Juhola


To tackle problems related to water quantity and quality, transformations in water management systems have become of increasing interest. Transformative capacity can be defined as the ability first to adapt to changes, and if needed, to carry out fundamental changes in a specific system. Using a framework of ten components of transformative capacity and an analysis of earlier historical research, policy documents and data gathered in a stakeholder scenario workshop, we examine the relationship between past and future transformations and transformative capacity in river basin management in the River Vantaa basin, located in southern Finland. In the past, River Vantaa was heavily polluted by municipal wastewater. The water quality has gradually improved but is still not considered good. The most successful changes have been concentrated on point source pollution, such as municipal wastewater, and they have mostly been driven by public administration and municipal coordination. In the future, more effort should be put on diffuse pollution, especially agricultural loading, and this requires changes in societal values and new forms of governance. We show how the past transformations have partly been driven by transformative capacity, but some transformations have enabled changes in the components of transformative capacity, indicating the interconnectedness of the different components. Furthermore, the interplay between transformations and transformative capacity occurs across spatial and temporal scales. We discuss how transformations take time, how transformative capacity evolves over longer time-spans, and how capacity and trajectories in local and wider scales are in a continuous interaction.


River basin management Transformation Transformative capacity Water governance Water management Water quality 



This research was funded by Helsinki University Centre for Environment (HENVI) [project number 77255106], the Academy of Finland [grant 286676] and Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation [Grant No. 20160025]. We thank Anja Nygren, Mira Käkönen, Adrián Monge Monge and Markku Kanninen for helping in the planning and carrying out the stakeholder scenario workshop.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS)University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of GeographyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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