Improving governance outcomes for water quality: insights from participatory social network analysis for chalk stream catchments in England.

Published online
07 Dec 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Ball, J. & Hauck, J. & Holland, R. A. & Lovegrove, A. & Snaddon, J. & Taylor, G. & Peh, K. S. H.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
England & UK


Globally important chalk streams in England are in poor ecological health, in part due to inadequate water quality. Addressing this issue requires an understanding of the governance systems that surround water quality. The complexity and uncertainty inherent in hydrological systems has led to the emergence of integrated and adaptive forms of governance. In these multi-actor governance systems, the structure of the relationships between actors (the social network) has been shown to affect governance processes and outcomes. Using participatory social network analysis, we mapped and analysed the social networks for the River Test and River Itchen in Hampshire, United Kingdom, to identify actors and their roles, determine the network characteristics and identify interventions to improve governance. Although the results suggest a well-connected network of actors from the state, private sector and civil society, we find that decision-making is not decentralised. Bureaucratic governance by central state actors dominates. However, trust in these central state actors and private actors in the networks is low, which undermines collaboration and co-ordination in the network. Devolving authority to local actors, building trust in the networks and improving connections to important actors could help to improve governance outcomes for water quality.

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