Can collective action address the “tragedy of the commons” in groundwater management? Insights from an Australian case study

L’action collective peut-elle aborder la «tragédie des biens communs» dans la gestion des eaux souterraines? Aperçus d’une étude de cas australienne

¿Puede la acción colectiva contribuir para solucionar la “tragedia de los bienes comunes” en la gestión de aguas subterráneas? Perspectivas de un estudio de caso australiano

集体行动能够解决地下水管理中的“公地悲剧”吗?以澳大利亚案例研究之洞见

Pode a acção colectiva contribuir para resolver a “tragédia dos comuns” na gestão de água subterrânea? Perspectivas de um estudo de caso australiano

Abstract

Co-management through local collective action appeals as a way of effectively responding to critical groundwater management issues, including groundwater quality degradation and pumping that lowers water tables. Co-management may also build sufficient trust for stakeholders to agree to investigate, and potentially implement, new opportunities for the use and management of groundwater resources. This paper examines the potential of collective action to underpin co-management and lead to improved groundwater management. The case study is the Angas Bremer (AB) irrigation district in South Australia, which provides a rare example of community-lead groundwater management since the late 1970s. The key questions were: (1) Was the AB an example of collective action, and did that spark successful co-management? and, (2) What were the key outcomes of collective action throughout the years? Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders. By working together, and with government departments, AB irrigators successfully recovered an aquifer that was at risk of depletion and salinization. Drawing on this evidence, it is suggested that co-management through local collective action may be a useful option for those setting out to improve the social acceptability of new groundwater initiatives in farming landscapes, including managed aquifer recharge (MAR) and conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater.

Résumé

La cogestion par le biais d’une action collective au niveau local est un moyen de répondre efficacement aux problèmes critiques de gestion des eaux souterraines, notamment la dégradation de la qualité et le pompage qui abaisse les nappes phréatiques. La cogestion peut également créer une confiance suffisante pour que les parties prenantes acceptent d’étudier et, éventuellement, de mettre en œuvre de nouvelles opportunités d’utilisation et de gestion des ressources. Ce document examine le potentiel d’une action collective pour renforcer la cogestion et améliorer la gestion des eaux souterraines. L’étude de cas porte sur le district d’irrigation d’Angas Bremer (AB), situé dans le sud de l’Australie, qui constitue un exemple rare de gestion par les communautés depuis la fin des années 1970. Les questions clés étaient: (1) Le CA at-il été un exemple d’action collective et cela a-t-il favorisé une cogestion réussie? et, (2) Quels ont été les principaux résultats de l’action collective au cours des années? Les données ont été recueillies lors d’entretiens semi-structurés avec des parties prenantes clés. En travaillant ensemble et avec les ministères, les irrigants AB ont réussi à récupérer un aquifère menacé d’épuisement et de salinisation. Sur la base de ces preuves, il est suggéré que la cogestion par une action collective locale pourrait constituer une option utile pour ceux qui souhaitent améliorer l’acceptabilité sociale des nouvelles initiatives relatives aux eaux souterraines dans les paysages agricoles, y compris la recharge des aquifères et l’utilisation conjointe eau et eaux souterraines.

Resumen

La cogestión, a través de acción colectiva local, tiene ventajas como forma de responder de manera efectiva a los problemas críticos de la gestión del agua subterránea, incluida la degradación de la calidad y el bombeo que reduce los niveles piezométricos. La cogestión también puede generar suficiente confianza para que las partes interesadas acepten investigar, y potencialmente implementar, nuevas oportunidades para el uso y la gestión de los recursos hídricos. Este documento examina el potencial de la acción colectiva para sustentar la cogestión y conducir a una mejor gestión de las aguas subterráneas. El estudio de caso es el distrito de irrigación de Angas Bremer (AB) en Australia del Sur, que ofrece un raro ejemplo de manejo de agua subterránea liderado por la comunidad desde fines de los años setenta. Las preguntas clave fueron (1) ¿Fue el AB un ejemplo de acción colectiva, y eso provocó el éxito de la cogestión? y, (2) ¿Cuáles fueron los resultados clave de la acción colectiva a lo largo de los años? Los datos se recopilaron a través de entrevistas semiestructuradas con partes interesadas clave. Al trabajar juntos y con los departamentos gubernamentales, los irrigadores de AB recuperaron exitosamente un acuífero que estaba en riesgo de agotamiento y salinización. A partir de esta evidencia, sugerimos que la cogestión a través de la acción colectiva local puede ser una opción útil para aquellos que se proponen mejorar la aceptabilidad social de las nuevas iniciativas de agua subterránea en los paisajes agrícolas, incluida la recarga artificial de acuíferos y el uso conjunto de agua superficial y subterránea.

摘要

基于当地集体行动的共同管理是应对关键地下水管理问题的一种有效方式,包括地下水质量恶化和降低地下水位的抽水问题。共同管理或许还可以与利益相关者建立足够的信任,使其同意调查工作的进行,并潜在地为地下水资源利用和管理提供新的机会。本文探讨了集体行动对于支持共同管理的潜力,并进一步改善了地下水管理。此案例的研究区位于南澳大利亚的Angas Bremer(AB)灌溉区,提供了一个自20世纪70年代后期以来罕见的由社区领导的地下水管理的示例。其关键问题是:(1)AB是否是集体行动的一个例子,并成功地促成了共同管理?(2)多年来集体行动的主要成果是什么?数据收集的方式为与主要利益相关者的半结构式访谈。通过共同合作并与政府部门协作,AB的灌溉者们成功地恢复了一个处于枯竭和盐碱化风险的含水层。据此证明,通过地方集体行动进行共同管理有助于提高农业景观中新的地下水倡议的社会可接受性,其中包括管理含水层补给(MAR)和地表水与地下水的综合利用。

Resumo

Co-gestão, através de ação colectiva local, é vantajosa para responder eficazmente a questões críticas para a gestão de água subterrânea, incluindo degradação da qualidade e extracções que reduzam os níveis piezométricos. A co-gestão pode também contribuir para que se crie confiança suficiente para que as partes interessadas concordem em investigar, e potencialmente implementar, novas oportunidades para o uso e gestao dos recursos hídricos. Este documento examina o potencial da acção colectiva para contribuir para co-gestão, levando assim a uma melhor gestão da água subterrânea. O estudo de caso é o distrito de irrigação de Angas Bremer (AB) na Austrália do Sul, que oferece um raro exemplo de gestao de água subterrânea conduzida pela comunidade local desde o final da década de 1970. As questões-chave foram: (1) Foi AB um exemplo de acção colectiva, e isso gerou uma co-gestão bem-sucedida? e, (2) Quais foram os principais resultados da acção colectiva ao longo dos anos? Os dados foram recolhidos através de entrevistas semiestruturadas com os principais envolvidos no processo. Trabalhando em conjunto e com departamentos governamentais, os irrigadores de AB recuperaram com sucesso um aquífero em risco de esgotamento e salinização. Com base nesta evidência, sugere-se que a co-gestão através de acção coletiva local possa ser uma opção útil para aqueles que desejem melhorar a aceitação social de novas iniciativas de gestao de água subterrânea em zonas agrícolas, incluindo a recarga artificial de aquíferos e uso conjunto de água superficial e subterrânea.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Ms. Diane Davidson for suggesting this interesting research project. The authors would also like to thank Prof. Christine Trenorden, Dr. Emily Mendham, Mr. James Hopkinson, Mr. Constantine Seidl and Ms. Leah Hunter for insightful discussions. The authors thank the Associate Editor Dr. Rebecca Doble and two anonymous reviewers for their contribution, which increased the quality of this report immensely. Finally, the authors would like to thank the interviewees for their availability and valuable information provided without which this research would not have been possible.

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Correspondence to Carlos M. Ordens.

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Shalsi, S., Ordens, C.M., Curtis, A. et al. Can collective action address the “tragedy of the commons” in groundwater management? Insights from an Australian case study. Hydrogeol J 27, 2471–2483 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-019-01986-1

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Keywords

  • Groundwater management
  • Australia
  • Collective action
  • Co-management
  • Millennium drought