Capacities for Watershed Resilience: Persistence, Adaptation, and Transformation


Water management and governance at the watershed scale is complex, with attention needed to the realities of fit with institutional arrangements and consideration of the dynamic and uncertain nature of social-ecological systems. The concept of social-ecological resilience and its application to water resources – ‘water resilience’ hereafter – offers a framework by which to approach these critical considerations. Water resilience is defined by three concepts: persistence; adaptation; and, transformation. These concepts are each complex themselves, and there has been little attention to the relationships among them.

We describe the areas of overlap and uniqueness among these concepts through the identification of factors that underlie each. Then, we draw upon three case studies of watershed organizations to illustrate overlap and uniqueness. Through these conceptual exercises we identify substantive areas of overlap among persistence, adaptation, and transformation and that case studies exhibit factors related to all three concepts, even when the case is primarily focused on one. Overlapping factors of particular note include diversity and redundancy, connectedness, and learning.

We also identify that, while factors may overlap among persistence, adaptation, and transformation, the underlying intent is different. Ultimately, we find that the boundaries among the concepts that comprise water resilience are fuzzy and depending upon the needs and/or desires of watershed organizations to persist, adapt, or transform, different factors and qualities of those factors that align with those intentions may be emphasized.


Link to centre authors: Moore, Michele-Lee
Publication info: Baird J., Quinlan A., Plummer R., Moore ML., Krievins K. 2021. Capacities for Watershed Resilience: Persistence, Adaptation, and Transformation. In: Baird J., Plummer R. (eds) Water Resilience. Springer, Cham.