Water Management and Structuration Theory: A Case Study in the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho - Spokane, Washington Region Thesis uri icon



  • Thesis (Ph.D., Water Resources)--University of Idaho, June 2015 | There is a lack of understanding about how the interplay between individual actions and social structures informs water management practices. While Structuration Theory provides a holistic examination of individual and structural levels, it is not robustly applied in water management settings. Such an integrated understanding is critical when water crosses jurisdictions and management responsibilities are fragmented among organizations. This situation exists in the case study area, the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho—Spokane, Washington region. Primary qualitative data were collected through interviews with water management, use, allocation, and protection actors. Snowball sampling generated this interview sample. An interdisciplinary component integrated hydrology, environmental science, and engineering data to contextualize interviews, frame analysis, and provide biophysical information. Results were analyzed with respect to Structuration Theory’s propositions and concepts. Overall, actors realized collaboration’s benefits and held pro-collaborative perspectives, but regulations and institutional arrangements constrained collaboration’s scope. Thus, collaborative behaviors were limited to data collection and sharing, capacity building, and relationship development. Norms, state, tribal, and federal regulations, and the differences between Washington and Idaho water management institutions were important components of the water management system. Even with trends towards collaboration and strategic, context-appropriate management behaviors, social structures informed behavior more than actors affected them. This study demonstrated Structuration Theory’s explanatory value in framing and understanding complex water management systems. This successful application argues for the appropriateness of and need for enhanced empirical use of Structuration Theory within water management research.

publication date

  • August 15, 2015