Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Environmental Resources & Policy
Stakeholder engagement and collaborative governance have become increasingly important in the field of river basin management. Modern basin management strategies tend to take an adaptive or integrative management approach, which call for broad stakeholder inclusion to account for the increasing uncertainty and competing demands placed on water resources. This dissertation examines several key aspects of stakeholder participation: public awareness and value of participation in management, opportunities and barriers to participation, and the effect of public participation on watershed management outcomes. A major goal of this project is to identify factors that enhance managers’ ability to include effective stakeholder participation in the water governance process. While opportunities for participation are increasingly mandated as part of environmental management practices, the quality of that participation is often called into question. In the first of three papers comprising this dissertation, I conducted an interdisciplinary study assessing risk perception and actual health risks from exposure to metals in fish from the Tisza River Basin of central Europe. Mining in the region has chronically introduced metals; however, two major mine-tailings spill in 2000 contributed an estimated 240,000 m3 of wastewater and tailings contaminated with cyanide and metals to the system. In 2013 and 2014, water and fish (N=99) collected from the lower Tisza River Basin were analyzed for cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc. Concurrently, surveys (N=45) collected near sampling sites assessed fish consumption patterns and risk perception. Metals in water exceeded regulatory criteria at multiple sites, however metals are not bioaccumulating to a concerning degree in fish as bioaccumulation factors were below 1. Fillets were within European Food Safety Authority recommendations; however, the Target Hazard Quotient for lead was elevated at 1.5 for average consumers and 3.5 for people who consume fish twice weekly. The majority of survey participants were unconcerned with local fish consumption (87%), citing the “clean” appearance of fishing locations. Participants also reported relatively low fish consumption, with most (76%) eating basin fish once a week or less. While our study indicates fish are generally safe for human consumption, waters are polluted, suggesting that local fishing populations may be at risk from unseen pollutants and highlighting the need for monitoring and notification systems. Broadening the analysis of local stakeholders and stakeholder perception to the basin level, the second paper for this dissertation examined public perception and public participation in Tisza River Basin management. The complexity associated with achieving sustainable river basin management plans for international, transboundary river basins, such as the Tisza River Basin in central Europe, make them an ideal study area for examining the influence of education and experience on stakeholder perception of basin management. This study presents findings from analysis of in-person surveys to examine differences in local stakeholder perceptions of the Tisza River Basin across employment and education sectors through analysis of participants’ levels of knowledge, experience, and involvement in basin management. The survey was conducted among members of the public in locations across the basin, in which participants were asked to identify and rank their opinions of factors affecting the health of the river basin, to identify observed changes in flood patterns, and to rank their level of interest and participation in basin management activities. To evaluate whether experience affected responses, participants were grouped according to whether they worked in the public or private sector, and by their level of education (no college, undergraduate, or graduate school). Significant differences in stakeholder responses were found between education levels attained among participants in the public versus the private sector, and between the reported levels of environmental concern among participants of different education levels. Participants also reported low levels of participation and monitoring of management activities. These differences and lack of participation highlight the need for public education in participatory governance structures to support sustainable river basin management efforts. The Upper Mississippi River Basin is similar to the Tisza River Basin in its transboundary nature and the predominance of agriculture in the region. The Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB) is a largely rural watershed (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri) that is heavily managed for agriculture and agricultural exports. This has led to water quality impairments both within the Upper Mississippi River Basin and contributed significantly to the large hypoxic zone of the Gulf of Mexico. Management responses have led to the formation of collaborative responses across stakeholder groups, including states, agencies, industry, non-government organizations, and the public. In the third paper of this dissertation, I shifted my focus from the public to another set of local stakeholders, environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs), and their influence on river basin management. ENGOs are recognized as serving as implementers, catalysts, and partners with government agencies in the management process. To assess the participatory role of ENGOs in watershed management in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, expert interviews were conducted with members actively engaged in watershed-related activities. Participants were asked to identify their key areas of
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