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Stakeholder analysis combined with social network analysis provides fine-grained insights into water infrastructure planning processes

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Lienert Judit, Schnetzer Florion, Ingold Karin,
Project Sustainable water infrastructure planning (SWIP)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Environmental Management
Volume (Issue) 125
Page(s) 134 - 148
Title of proceedings Journal of Environmental Management
DOI 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.03.052

Abstract

Environmental policy and decision-making are characterized by complex interactions between different actors and sectors. As a rule, a stakeholder analysis is performed to understand those involved, but it has been criticized for lacking quality and consistency. This lack is remedied here by a formal social network analysis that investigates collaborative and multi-level governance settings in a rigorous way. We examine the added value of combining both elements. Our case study examines infrastructure planning in the Swiss water sector. Water supply and wastewater infrastructures are planned far into the future, usually on the basis of projections of past boundary conditions. They affect many actors, including the population, and are expensive. In view of increasing future dynamics and climate change, a more participatory and long-term planning approach is required. Our specific aims are to investigate fragmentation in water infrastructure planning, to understand how actors from different decision levels and sectors are represented, and which interests they follow. We conducted 27 semi-structured interviews with local stakeholders, but also cantonal and national actors. The network analysis confirmed our hypothesis of strong fragmentation: we found little collaboration between the water supply and wastewater sector (confirming horizontal fragmentation), and few ties between local, cantonal, and national actors (confirming vertical fragmentation). Infrastructure planning is clearly dominated by engineers and local authorities. Little importance is placed on longer-term strategic objectives and integrated catchment planning, but this was perceived as more important in a second analysis going beyond typical questions of stakeholder analysis. We conclude that linking a stakeholder analysis, comprising rarely asked questions, with a rigorous social network analysis is very fruitful and generates complementary results. This combination gave us deeper insight into the socio-political-engineering world of water infrastructure planning that is of vital importance to our well-being.
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