Information and Communication Technology as a Means to Improve Stakeholders' Understanding of the Commons: The Case of Groundwater Management in France

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2000

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Abstract

"Traditionally, conflicts arising from a lack of understanding among stakeholders are a major problem when dealing with common property resources and more generally environmental issues. In some cases, the conflicts have been solved by congregating stakeholders and discussing the divergent interests that have eventually led to a better management of the resources. Improving and integrating the quality of information and common knowledge would accelerate the process of mutual comprehension. Therefore, we aim at exploring the introduction of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as a tool for improving the understanding of stakeholders in the management of a Common Pool Resource: Groundwater. Understanding the multivariate dimension of water management can be improved through the application of innovative ICT. This methodology is able to combine hydrological, spatial and economic data sets which could be integrated within scenario simulation tools. This approach allows robust and clear scientific support for deliberation by decision-makers and stakeholders permitting intelligent compromises and co-operative conflict resolution. "One of the most important challenges facing natural resource managers today is to identify, measure, and monitor the cumulative impacts of land use decisions across space and time. Perhaps in no other field are these challenges more apparent than in water management, where different categories of use decisions are shaped by numerous competing and often conflicting claims on the natural resource base. Because water management encompasses the simultaneous consideration of hydrological, pedological, and biological resources, the need for making better use of analytical tools and approaches which address spatial and temporal variability is critical. One family of information technology products that has gained widespread acceptance among natural resource and environmental managers in the developed world is Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS as well as others products developed in the DICTUM program at C3ED can be integrated into our analysis. "Our paper will be divided in four steps. In the first step, a going back to the conflict dilemma between the stakeholders interests and the need for a sustainable management of the groundwater resource will be analyzed. We will explore the potential risks of agriculture, industry and economic activity concerning availability and depletion of the resource. In the second step, we will present how stakeholders perspectives (with focus groups) are usually managed and how the use of ICT products can improve these participatory governance structures. Our attention, in the third step, will also be focused on an institutional arrangement occurring in France: the SAGE (Schéma dAménagement et de Gestion des Eaux: Water Management and Developing Diagram) in a specific area: the Beauce Groundwater Basin. We will try to explain why this approach can be useful for the managers as well as for the users in such an institutional context and connect this idea with others past experiences. Finally, in the last step we will present the limits of this approach."

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IASC, common pool resources, water resources, groundwater, information technology, information dissemination, simulations, decision making--models, conflict resolution--theory

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