Vitality of Complex Water Governance Systems: Condition and Evolution

Edelenbos, J., van Meerkerk, I., & van Leeuwen, C. (2014). Vitality of Complex Water Governance Systems: Condition and Evolution. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, (ahead-of-print), 1-25.

In this article the evolution of vitality of social systems in water governance processes, approached as social-ecological systems, is studied. Vitality as well as conditions for vitality are theorized and measured in two cases of the Dutch southwest Delta region. Different patterns and developments in the rise and fall of vitality are found in the two cases. We followed the developments of five conditions explaining the discovered changes in the levels of vitality throughout the years in the two cases. The first conclusion is that the conditions can be treated as clear enablers for increasing the level of vitality in both cases. Furthermore, a low score on (most of) the conditions are accompanied with low scores on vitality. The second conclusion that we can draw from our case comparative research deals with the relationship among the five conditions. We found two distinct types of relationships among the conditions: (1) a substituting, and (2) a mutually reinforcing relationship. The latter relationship is witnessed in ‘big jumps in the level of vitality from low scores to high scores on vitality. The first relationship is discovered in certain phases of the cases, which maintain a certain high level of vitality.