APPENDIX 1. The case study.

The Camargue is the Rhone river delta on the French Mediterranean coast. The delta covers approximately 150 000 ha and is a mosaic of fresh, brackish and saline wetlands interspersed with areas of intensive agriculture and industry (Mathevet 2004). It is a wetland of international importance for its diversity of ecosystems and its wildlife (Heath and Evans 2000).The “Camargue island” is the central part of the delta and constitutes the main part of the Natural Regional Park (75 000 ha, and Biosphere Reserve. Rice and wheat farming are the most widespread crops in the delta, with the alternative crops being limited by soil salinity (Barbier and Mouret 1992). In 2006, crop lands represented 27% of the Natural Regional Park while natural habitats represented 54%, salt pans 18% and urbanized area 1%. In the central part of the Camargue island a lagoon system consists of the Vaccares lagoon (6600 ha) that is the National Nature Reserve of Camargue, and several smallest lagoons and halophytic scrublands (4500 ha). Under the current wind, marine and rainfall regimes, the water flows between these lagoons and the sea (Chauvelon 1996). The water exchange occurs through a controlled water gate. The management of this flood gate is based on water and salinity objectives and related to fish migrations.

The present irrigation and drainage system was mainly developed during the 19th and first part of the 20th century. The management of the irrigation water generates conflicts between landowners linked to their location in the network and the seasonal availability of water. Several associations manage the runoff, the ground water and the discharge coming from the rice fields. Either the water is pumped back to the Rhone River or it is evacuated by gravity to the lagoon system before it flows to the sea. The evacuation of the water towards the lagoon system still generates problems of water quality and quantity. This situation can generate conflicts mostly between the manager of the National Nature Reserve, rice farmers and fishermen (Picon 1988).

Following the catastrophic floods of 1993 and 1994, local stakeholders decided to create a negotiation forum where a deliberative process between managers, local authorities, and other stakeholders could take place. This Water Board was established to help identify potential trade-offs and actions for water management of the central lagoon system. It is currently made up of 23 members representing the most dominant local activities and administrative bodies with management responsibilities (Table 1). Its president is the water officer of the Regional Agricultural Service and the facilitator is the water management officer of the Natural Regional Park. This Water Board is an informal structure with no legal mandate. It aims to provide an operational space to aid management decisions related the protection of goods and persons from floods, the maintenance of local economic activities and the conservation of natural heritage. The outputs of regular meetings are decisions on water management and the evaluation of their impacts on salt levels of the lagoon system. During flood events the Water Board members meet to suggest and develop operational solutions to local and national authorities in charge of flood management of the delta.

The seasonal variability and unpredictability of the Mediterranean climate generates a high level of uncertainty in the behaviour of the Camargue Island system. To manage this uncertainty the Water Board needs to improve its understanding of the system functions. For that purpose, monitoring and modelling of the system was developed by ecologists and hydrologists (Chauvelon 2001a, 2001b). Social studies complemented these physical scientific studies in order to understand and improve the region’s decision-making process (Picon 1988, Mathevet 2004, Dervieux et al. 2006).

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