The re-adaptation challenge: limits and opportunities of existing infrastructure and institutions in adaptive water governance

Christopher A. Scott, Padmendra P. Shrestha, America N. Lutz-Ley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Water plays a central role in climate adaptation, economic development, poverty alleviation, food and energy security, and ecosystem processes. Addressing current and future global change, particularly for competing water-governance objectives, requires planning flexibility that may be constrained by physical water-resources infrastructure. This paper reviews infrastructure, the institutions for its management, and adaptive governance. We emphasize mechanisms that enhance adaptive capacity by accounting for: (1) uncertainties in supply, demand, and extreme conditions; (2) institutional inertia and means to overcome path dependence; and (3) flexibility in planning and operation of infrastructure. We define and discuss the ‘re-adaptation challenge,’ that is, accounting for infrastructure and institutions extant from past cycles of development while strengthening the capacity of planners, managers and other stakeholders to confront current complexities and future uncertainties. In so doing, we bring forward resilience as a water-governance goal, identifying infrastructure re-operations, other soft-path measures, and potentially, infrastructure removal as transformative adaptive pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-112
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
StatePublished - Jun 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

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