Date of Award

Summer 7-8-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Deserai A. Crow

Second Advisor

Douglas Kenney

Third Advisor

Krister Andersson

Abstract

As the implementation of collaborative governance processes in response to natural resource issues continues to grow, gaining a better understanding of what makes some processes more successful than others is crucial to promoting effective future resource governance. Following one of the worst droughts in state history, Colorado implemented its own collaborative water planning and governance process in the form of Basin Roundtables. Each Roundtable, composed of diverse stakeholders as defined by the enacting legislation, works together to assess its home basin’s current and future water needs and to propose solutions that ideally satisfy a wide variety of water users while simultaneously resulting in more sustainable future water use. Using data from twenty-eight comprehensive interviews with Roundtable participants, as well as direct observations of Roundtable meetings across the state, this study analyzes the Roundtable process as a case study of collaborative governance, paying specific attention to how stakeholders interact with one another to form coalitions and produce outcomes. While Roundtable members do not appear to alter their core values or form strict coalitions as a result of interacting with others in this process, they do learn about one another’s values and work cooperatively to reach consensus on a diversity of formal and informal outcomes. However, these outcomes are limited by a variety of biophysical, social, and political factors that may restrict the Roundtable process from creating major changes to Colorado’s water governance regime. Moreover, while the norm of consensus may serve as a motivator for Roundtable members to strive for solutions that truly benefit all groups, it may also limit the scope of available solutions to those that do not vary greatly from the status quo. This thesis closes with a number of hypotheses that emerge from this exploratory research that can be tested more formally in future studies.

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