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Managing urban water crises: adaptive policy responses to drought and flood in Southeast Queensland, Australia

Brian W. Head, The University of Queensland

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06414-190233

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Abstract

In this case study, I examine the quality of decision-making under conditions of rapidly evolving urban water crises, and the adaptive policy challenges of building regional resilience in response to both drought and flood. Like other regions of Australia, Southeast Queensland has been subject to substantial cycles of drought and flood. I draw on resilience literature concerning sustainability, together with governance literature on policy change, to explain the changing awareness of urban water crises and the strategic options available for addressing these crises in this case study. The problem of resilience thinking opens up a number of important questions about the efficacy and adaptability of the policy system. The case provides insights into the interplay between the ways in which problems are framed, the knowledge bases required for planning and decision-making, the collaborative governance processes required for managing complex and rapidly evolving issues, and the overall capacity for policy learning over time. Regional resilience was proclaimed as a policy goal by government, but the practices remained largely anchored in traditional technical frameworks. Centralized investment decisions and governance restructures provoked conflict between levels of government, undermining the capacity of stakeholders to create more consensual approaches to problem-solving and limiting the collective learning that could have emerged.

Key words

policy learning; regional resilience; urban water crisis; water governance; water policy

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087