Nation-wide decentralized governance arrangements and capacities for integrated watershed management: Issues and insights from Canada




Robins, Lisa

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Environments Journal


This paper explores existing decentralized governance arrangements and capacities for integrated watershed management in Canada across its thirteen provinces and territories, with particular emphasis on organizations with governing Boards that are principally, but not exclusively, comprised of persons from the local/regional community. 'Capacity' is broadly considered across human, social, institutional and economic dimensions. The research identifies and discusses 115 organizations as forming the potential foundations or 'building blocks' for nation-wide governance arrangements on the basis of the following criteria: (a) having a Board of management that includes community representation; (b) having responsibilities for integrated watershed management; (c) being independent or quasi-independent from government and having dedicated paid staff; (d) operating at subnational scale; and (e) representing the dominant and larger-scale organizational network for watershed management in the respective province or territory. These criteria are influenced by the need to transfer ideas and insights about capacity development from Canada's decentralized goverance arrangements to the Australian setting as part of a broader research agenda. The paper explores the notion that there are enough similarities within and between individual provincial and territorial arrangements to constitute a recognizable set of nation-wide governance arrangements and capacities that could be more purposefully 'evolved'. Such 'evolution' could occur through formal acknowledgment, expansion, utilization, in and research focus development and support, and could be particularly beneficial for delivering on emerging national agendas, such as water and climate change. A broad suite of capacity issues and insights are presented in the form of an exploratory SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, many of which are the focus of discussion in other literatures and have been with us for a long time. The paper provides a national synopsis and snapshot, and highlights that much still remains to be done in the domain of integrated watershed management. It aims to stimulate thinking about the merits of and prospects for developing nation-wide decentralized governance arrangements and capacities for integrated watershed management, and to inform dialogue and agenda-setting in this regard among system actors (i.e., subnational organizations, overarching organizations, governments, municipalities, First Nations, etc.) as a first-step.



Keywords: capacity building; decentralization; developing world; governance approach; integrated approach; water management; watershed; Canada; North America Capacity building; Community participation; Decentralized governance; Integrated watershed management



Environments Journal


Journal article

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights


Restricted until