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Surprising cooperation despite apparently irreconcilable differences Agricultural water use efficiency and CALFED

Surprising cooperation despite apparently irreconcilable differences Agricultural water use efficiency and CALFED

Environmental Science & Policy 12(6): 663-673

Much has been said about the need and benefits of consensus building for resolving disagreements about water and environmental management. Less has been said about how to better convene and facilitate those processes. This paper focuses on the latter, examining the challenges and breakthroughs encountered when decision-makers convene consensus building processes that seek an agreement among stakeholders who believe they have “apparently irreconcilable differences.” The research described here analyzes two multi-stakeholder, collaborative processes convened by the CALFED Bay-Delta Program (CALFED) on the issue of agricultural water use efficiency in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds of California. The first process made very little progress; however, stakeholder representatives in the second were able to forge an agreement that included significant innovation and surprising risk taking by all sides. Analyzing the two processes, this paper shows that the stakeholders, conveners, and facilitators in these processes had to do much more than make the discrete trades across interests envisioned in consensus building theory or reframing as described in theories about conflict and frames. Looking at the data, this paper shows how several concepts from outside consensus building—including boundary objects and interlanguage—along with less well-known concepts and issues within the consensus building literature—bricolage and representation—can provide insights into how the Steering Committee accomplished what it did. This paper introduces these additional concepts, how they mattered in this CALFED process, and suggests a complex set of interrelated insights into how future collaborative and integrative environmental programs can approach the most difficult environmental policy and management conflicts.

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Accession: 025621888

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DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2009.03.004

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