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Exploring how to integrate goals for water management

River Dee in the Cairngorms, Copyright Steve Addy
How can we integrate our different goals for water management?
How can we integrate our different goals for water management?

There have been decades of calls for more joined up approaches to water and catchment management, i.e. approaches that integrate multiple interests and objectives.  However, integration is a word that can be interpreted in many ways, and there is little firm knowledge about exactly how to enable it. How, by whom and where does integration 'happen'?

In this project we focused on the challenge of integrating goals for protecting and improving the water quality and ecology with goals for managing flood risk. We aimed to identify when and how we might further enable integration in Scotland.  We were informed by academic concepts in environmental policy and governance literatures, especially on topics of policy coherence, coordination, participation, institutional interplay, and policy entrepeneurs.

In 2016-2018 we focused on learning from the experiences of planning for integration in countries across Europe, and in 2019-2022 we focused on if and how catchment partnerships can help to reconcile multiple goals. In the latter part of our work we also focused on understanding the role of the private sector within partnerships, a topic which is increasingly emphasised in many contemporary discussions about environmental management. This project finished in March 2022, though this page will be updated with additional academic publications once they have completed peer review.

This project was funded by the Scottish Government RESAS Strategic Research Programme (SRP) 2016-21, where it is part of RD 1.2.4.  Work from 2019+ was jointly carried out with RD 1.4.2. For more information about this research contact Kerry Waylen ( or Kirsty Blackstock ( This project has informed subsequent work in the 2022-2027 SRP, especially on integrated land use, nature-based solutions and natural capital.

Written outputs - reports & briefings

  • In September 2016 we produced a short 10-page briefing that reviews what is already known about integration, and explains our future research plan. Click here to download the report (pdf, 09.MB). This corresponds with the first deliverable (D1.1) from this project.
  • In June 2017 we completed an analysis of River Basin Management Plans (made under the Water Framework Directive) and Flood Risk Management Plans (made under the Floods Directive). We analyse 6 sets of plans from cases across Europe, for indications of cross-references between the plans and policy areas. Click here to download the report (pdf, 0.9MB). This corresponds with the second deliverable (D1.2) from this project.
  • In September 2018 we completed the final main report of this project. This is based on interviews with people connected with policy implementation of the Floods Directive and Water Framework Directive in six cases across Europe. Click here to download the report (pdf, 684KB). This corresponds with the third deliverable (D1.3) from this project.
  • In October 2018 we summarised the main implications of this work in a short 4-page briefing. Click here to download the briefing (pdf, 801kb).
  • Also in March 2019 we produced a 19-page briefing scoping what is known about catchment partnership working, and the range of partnerships in the UK.
  • In March 2020 we produced a briefing summarising our preliminary findings on how and when catchment partnerships may enable the achievement of multiple environmental benefits. Click here to download the report.
  • In March 2021 we completed the main report on our work on catchment partnerships, where we present the main findings of our study of four cases: the Dee Catchment Partnership (in Scotland), the Hampshire Avon Catchment Partnership (in England), Poole Harbour Catchment Initiative (in England), and the Spey Catchment Initiative (in Scotland). In the report we discuss the partnership goals, how these align with policy objectives and to what extent they are being achieved; the characteristics of partnerships that explain these achievement; and how achievements are constrained or enabled by multi level or polycentric governance dimensions of the EU Water Framework Directive and Floods Directive. Click here to download the report. These findings were discussed in relation to experiences of other types of partnerships, as part of an Ecosystems and Land Use Stakeholders Engagemeng Group (ELSEG) meeting. More information on this discussion can be found on the RD1.4.2 project page.
  • In May 2021 we produced a briefing and slides summarising the main findings from our work on catchment partnerships, and highlighting the implications of these findings for partnerships, policy, for those enabling partnerships to happen, and for researchers.
  • In January 2022 this work informed stakeholder discussion in a workshop on 'Going with the Flow' convened jointly with ESCom. The key themes in that discussion, which particularly highlighted interests and experiences in working with the private sector, are summarised in this 5-page briefing.
  • In May 2022 Kerry Waylen wrote this SEFARI blog article to reflect on our 6 years of research and the elusive nature of integration.   

Written outputs - academic articles & book chapters

Presentations to stakeholders & academic peers

  • In January 2018 Kirsty Blackstock was invited to present on how River Basin Management might be improved using integration of various policies at the MARS Final conference. Her presentation discussed why we need to ensure ‘vertical consistency’ for integration, ensuring we have conceptual integration (a common vision); operational integration (appropriate instruments); implementation integration (integration is put into practice); and there is monitoring and evaluation that feeds back to the vision and instruments. The presentation drew on research funded by Scottish Government on integrating Water Framework Directive and Floods Directive, as well as on policy delivery mechanisms; and on research funded by the European Commission on Water-Energy-Food nexus (MAGIC-nexus), and funded by ALTER-NET on monitoring environmental management (MEEM). Click here to view the presentation slides and here read the abstract of the presentation.
  • In October 2018, Kerry Waylen presented on the findings and implications to European Commission Working Group 'F' on Floods, as part of their 24th meeting in Brussels. Her presentation focused on updates and new issues arising since their 2014 report on this subject, which is one of their priority work areas. This followed up on Kirsty Blackstock's presentation to the group in March 2017, where she focused on the early findings of the document analysis. Click here for the slides delivered in 2018, and here for the slides in 2017.
  • In January 2019, Kerry Waylen was invited to present the findings and reflected on the academic implications at the conference 'The Future of European Water Governance' at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig. Click here for the slides delivered.
  • In August 2020 Kerry Waylen presented at the ECPR (European Consortium for Political Research) General Conference. Her talk, titled ‘Striving to integrate delivery of water policies: the challenges of governing differently’, focussed on the challenges and opportunities of integrating the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive, drawing on our current work on Catchment Partnership working, as well on our previous work on plans made for policy implementation. Click here to see the presentation slides.
  • In September 2020 Kirsty Blackstock and Kerry Waylen participated in the Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN). Kerry presented on ‘Environmental partnerships: accumulating or resisting environmental bureaucracy’. Based on our research on four catchment partnerships in the UK, she reflected on how partnerships may transcend and are shaped by existing bureaucracies. Her presentation slides can be downloaded by clicking here. Kirsty presented on ‘Agency and Constraint: the role of individuals in delivering policy coherence’. Drawing on data from our research on EU policies, as well as on catchment partnerships in England and Scotland, and policy instruments in Scotland, she reflected on how individuals are constrained and motivated to act as ‘policy entrepreneurs’, making policy coherence happen. The slides from this presentation can be downloaded here.
  • In March 2021 we curated a virtual exhibition on Water Governance, as part of the World Water Day events organised by Hydro Nation. The exhibition, which can be viewed here until March 2022, showcases some of the work conducted as part of this project, as well as work by colleagues at other research institutes. As part of this event, we produced a video about some of the findings of our work on catchment partnerships; the video focuses on the role of individuals, and in particular of partnership coordinators, in making catchment partnerships work. Click here to view all the virtual exhibitions that were curated as part of World Water Day.
  • Also in March 2021, Kirsty Blackstock presented some of our findings from this work at the Twenty65 Annual Conference, within its 'Social Science of Water Network Event'. Kirsty's presentation focussed on the role, benefits and evolution of private-public catchment partnerships, and the role of the private sector in these partnerships. Click here to view the slides.
  • In July 2021, Kerry Waylen presented on an emergent issue from our findings 'Agency and Constraint: The role of individuals in policy coherence for joined-up water governance', drawing on all five year's of work in this project and also some insights from the MAGIC project at the 5th International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP5) within the panel on 'Integrative water governance across scales, levels and sectors'. Click here to view the slides.
  • This work has also influenced and been used with other research insights in interdisciplinary presentations by our colleagues. For example, in October 2021 this work fed into Alison Hester's presentation at the Challenging Upland Futures conference; and in March 2022 it fed into Alessandro Gimona's presentation to Ecosystem and Land Use Stakeholders Group (ELSEG).
Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project
SEFARI – Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research InstitutesSEFARI is the collective of six Scottish world-leading Research Institutes working across the spectrum of environment, land, food, agriculture and communities – all topics which affect how we live our lives, in Scotland and beyond.


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.