The Space in Between: Where Multiple Ways of Knowing in Water Management Meet

Marcela Brugnach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Aligning what we know with what we do is one of the major challenges of contemporary water governance. Solving current water problems transcends the decision-making power and resources of any single actor and requires coordinated actions among a diversity of actors from different organizational levels and sectors. In these decision contexts of water issues and the networks of actors concerned with them, there are many ways of knowing (WoKs). In her scholarly work, Helen Ingram has often stated that effective problem solving in a democracy requires the integration of different ways of knowing. This implies enlarging and connecting existing WoKs in such a way that they reflect common collective goals and mutually acceptable solutions. But, she also recognizes that doing so is challenging, since problem definitions and solutions are often ambiguous and enmeshed in different networks of actors and institutional arrangements, where power differentials, conflicting interests, and different access to resources exist. She notes that all too often, this diversity in ways of knowing is arbitrated by appealing to a single perspective (where a technical one is preferred), resulting in solutions to water problems that do not fit the contexts in which they are implemented. Here, I have examined what it means to embrace ambiguity from the perspective of WoKs theory, paying particular attention to the relational aspects underlying the generation of knowledge for action, and proposed knowledge co-production processes that support collaboration and connection among multiple WoKs. I illustrate these ideas with examples of groundwater management from two case studies in Spain and Italy, in which I have been involved.
Original languageEnglish
Article number664798
Pages (from-to)34-59
JournalJournal of the Southwest
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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