Coming together: Insights from an Australian example of collective action to co-manage groundwater

Sarah Shalsi, Carlos M. Ordens, Allan Curtis, Craig T. Simmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Resource-user participation in decision-making, through local collective action, likely contributes to effective groundwater management and protection. Despite efforts to construct generalized theoretical frameworks explaining factors influencing successful collective action in groundwater management, this is a highly complex process that remains challenging. This paper analyzes factors facilitating and impeding collective action in groundwater management, using the rare and successful collective-action example of the Angas Bremer irrigation district (South Australia). Drawing on data gathered through semi-structured interviews this paper further explores the context under which collective action arose and changed over time. The findings show a dynamic transient interaction between the following factors responsible for the rise and fall of collective action: (i) perceived crisis, (ii) small, homogenous community (iii) strong leadership from respected community members, (iv) shared norms and values, (v) shared goals, and (vi) trustworthy two-way relationship between resource users and formal institution. Although it is difficult to generalize from one case study, collective action and groundwater management are highly contextual. These findings are useful (i) for other communities with similar characteristics, (ii) to explore conditions for achieving successful groundwater governance including efficient and effective reforms, (iii) to highlight the importance of participatory management processes, (iv) to help government agencies understand what motivates communities to engage in collective action and how that leads to successful groundwater co-management, and (v) to expand on a very small body of literature documenting stakeholders narratives on collective action and groundwater management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127658
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Australia
  • Collective action
  • Groundwater management
  • Murray-Darling Basin
  • Socio-Hydrogeology
  • Success factors


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