Adaptive basin governance and the prospects for meeting Indigenous water claims

Rosalind H. Bark, Dustin E. Garrick, Catherine J. Robinson, Sue Jackson

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58 Citations (Scopus)


The United States and Australia confront the challenge of meeting multi-faceted Indigenous water requirements within the wider context of intensified competition for freshwater supplies and expiation of historic inequality of access. Fulfilment of Indigenous water claims requires acceptance of currently unrecognised uses that may be in conflict with water planning in irrigation-dominated basins. Adaptive governance regimes have been applied to deal with uncertainly and change in water planning and allocation decisions, including changes related to the recognition of Indigenous water claims, values, and knowledge. This paper examines the prospects of adaptive governance regimes to combine: (a) insights into decision-making and policy learning in contexts of high levels of uncertainty over the information base and legal and policy arrangements; with (b) institutional arrangements to coordinate decision-making and accountability across multiple decision-making units, values and jurisdictions, to accommodate Indigenous water claims. In both countries, efforts have involved (re)allocation of water entitlements and greater participation in multi-stakeholder basin planning. In this paper we find that a mix of these adaptive governance mechanisms shows greatest promise for overcoming resistance to the recognition of Indigenous water claims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-177
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


  • Adaptive governance
  • Indigenous water requirements

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