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Now more than ever in making decisions about water, including the protection of source water, there is concern about the process and context in which decisions are made. Historically, government agencies have dominated decision making using a top down approach. More recently, however, a wider array of participants is included in water-related decision making processes. Goals underlying this shift can include democratizing the process, adding legitimacy to the outcomes, strengthening the capacity of local communities, and increasing likelihood of plan implementation.
There is much enthusiasm for these joint decision making endeavours, at least on a conceptual basis. However, there also are reasons for caution. Four characteristics of collaborative decision making processes can result in frustration and uncertainty for participants.