Coordinating Collaboration for Improved Water Quality in the Klamath Basin, USA: Toward a Model of Adaptive Governance

EPA Grant Number: FP917277
Title: Coordinating Collaboration for Improved Water Quality in the Klamath Basin, USA: Toward a Model of Adaptive Governance
Investigators: Chaffin, Brian C
Institution: Oregon State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Emerging Environmental Approaches and Challenges: Social Sciences , Academic Fellowships


In recent years, a growing number of bottom-up approaches to water quality governance have emerged from groups of local actors, social networks and various collaborations of community leaders sensing the need for alternatives to topdown government through new approaches to environmental decision making. These efforts have been largely successful, specifically in the context of ecological restoration for improved water quality. The question arises: Can multiple, locally based, collaborative efforts to improve water quality be coordinated across a large-scale ecosystem such as a large river basin?


The institutional arrangements in the Klamath River Basin of south-central Oregon and northern California present an optimal case study area to test the coordination of collaborative efforts to improve basin water quality. Through the theoretical framework of adaptive governance, this study will test the hypothesis that collaborative agreements forged between Klamath River Basin stakeholder groups provide the framework necessary to coordinate multiple collaborative water quality improvement efforts. At the core of the proposed project is an indepth elucidation and analysis of the key features of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and its companion Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), which together, comprise one of the most comprehensive ecosystem restoration projects ever envisioned. Further research techniques will include an institutional mapping exercise to identify and characterize existing approaches to water quality management in the Klamath Basin, as well as semi-structured interviews with representatives from federal, state and tribal agencies associated with Klamath water quality governance.

Expected Results:

The data from interviews and document analyses may suggest that the KBRA contains a number of innovative solutions to the problem of identifying a governance mechanism to unite individual collaborative efforts to improve basin water quality. Research on the Klamath agreements will be used to contribute a framework of adaptive governance to the theoretical and applied literature,including an analysis of lessons learned, practical limitations and guidelines for implementing adaptive governance to unify collaboration. The Klamath case study will satisfy a broader need for on-the-ground examples of adaptive and collaborative governance with the potential to improve water quality in a variety of geographic scales and contexts.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

This research explores a case study of coordinating collaboration as a framework for improving water quality and achieving the goals of the Clean Water Act. This research will contribute to existing knowledge and scholarship on the potential promise of emerging forms of devolved environmental governance aimed at ecological restoration for the improvement and protection of water quality. Innovative agreements represent future solutions for improving water quality through the coordination of individual collaborative initiatives, while at the same time serving the needs of resource dependent stakeholders, complying with regulatory requirements, and reducing conflict over rural water.

Supplemental Keywords:

adaptive governance, collaborative management, water quality, Klamath River, Clean Water Act

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final