River basins are difficult units to manage. Society is generally not organized on the basis of river basins, yet river basins are important units for society and vice versa. This paper discusses the development and effectiveness of river basin management, using the Great Ouse Basin in the east of England as an example. Because of conflicting interests between upstream and downstream areas in this basin, it took some 70 years, from 1850 to 1920, to establish the first basin-wide management body, and because of these interests this body was initially not very effective. Over the years management was scaled up until in 1989 a national rivers authority was established. A fundamental issue was the lack of a sense of community at the basin scale. This could have mitigated the conflicts of interests and facilitated better cooperation. The paper recommends more research on the role of community in river basin management and suggests to extend the notions of ‘institutional’ and ‘socio-ecological fit’ to include ‘community fit’.
- river basin