Community perceptions of water quality and current institutional arrangements in the Great Barrier Reef Region of Australia

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

This paper traces the perceived linkages between sources of water quality deterioration, impact on human wellbeing and the institutions responsible for dealing with the sources and impacts. The DPSIR (Driving forces-Pressure-State-Impact-Response) framework is used as a guide for data collection and to structure responses and the emerging themes. The web of linkages, as perceived by residents, is then compared with current institutional arrangements across different relevant sectors.

Taking a case study and exploratory research approach, eleven residents of Whitsunday shire, Queensland, Australia were interviewed about their perceptions of water related issues. This was followed by an analysis of current water management institutions for the region. Significant gaps were found between community concerns regarding water quality and actual institutional arrangements responsible for managing water use and quality. Residents perceived their local government body (Shire Council) as accountable for responding to water-related pressures and impacts in their Shire, whereas the responsibility falls primarily on government agencies and organisations at a regional, state and national level. Improved communication between the council and residents is needed to close these gaps in understanding. Moreover, incorporation of local perceptions and values regarding water pressure, impacts and preferred use into the development of institutional arrangements for water management is suggested.

Keywords: DPSIR, Great Barrier Reef, Institutional analysis, Integrated catchment management, Perceptions of water

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