The role of science, stakeholder engagement, and decision making process design in advancing innovation around water management in Massachusetts
Author(s)Corson-Rikert, Tyler Andrew
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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The Sustainable Water Management Initiative is a multi-stakeholder process that the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs convened in early 2010 to seek advice on how to more sustainably manage the state's water resources. The initiative followed growing scientific understanding of the importance of adequate instream flows to the ecological health of the state's waterways, and several years of political mobilization and litigation by both watershed advocates and water suppliers. The process consists of two committees, one technically- and one policy-oriented, advising the state on its drafting of new water management policies. While this represents an expanded commitment by the state environmental agencies to stakeholder engagement, the initiative does not conform to all best practices in the literature. For example, it does not give participants an opportunity to determine the information they need and interpret it in crafting proposals, nor empower them to vote on potential policies. The initiative does offer an opportunity to explore the influence that science and the choices conveners make in designing a stakeholder engagement process have on the potential for policy innovation within a difficult political context. Focusing on process design and the role of science, this thesis hypothesizes that the sources, management, and stakeholder perceptions of scientific and technical information influence the prospects for generating innovative policies. Examining the ongoing work of the Sustainable Water Management Initiative, it finds that questions arising in the earlier development of watershed science have reemerged in policy discussions, that choices in the management of information shape participants' perceptions of policy proposals, and that water suppliers' and environmentalists' perspectives shape their sometimes conflicting and sometimes congruent views of the science and its use in making policy. These dynamics have then influenced the prospects for building consensus and promoting discussion around innovative policy ideas that could move Massachusetts towards more integrated water resource management. Thus, while the Sustainable Water Management Initiative does not conform to ideal models in the literature, it includes enough best practices in the use of science for policy making to enhance the prospects for water management innovation in the state.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2011.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 90-94).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.