Standard Article

192 Public Participation in River Basin Planning and Management: Quality-of-Life Capital as an Information Aid to Sustainable Decisions

Part 16. Land Use and Water Management

  1. Malcolm Newson1,
  2. Liz Chalk2

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa201

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Newson, M. and Chalk, L. 2006. Public Participation in River Basin Planning and Management: Quality-of-Life Capital as an Information Aid to Sustainable Decisions. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 16:192.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, UK

  2. 2

    Environment Agency, North East Region, York, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


The long-term benefits conveyed by intact ecosystems to human development can be considered as an innate “natural” capital investment. A number of UK environmental management agencies have commissioned a practical realization of this concept, partly as a basis for public participation, successively titled “Environmental Capital” and “Quality of Life Capital”. Hydrological concepts are particularly appropriate to an evaluation of natural goods and services; intact natural systems provide flood and pollution controls which need costly artificial replacement when lost or damaged. There are obvious opportunities, therefore, to incorporate assessments of environmental capital as part of the public participation in river basin planning demanded by the European Water Framework Directive. This contribution examines the effectiveness of “Quality of Life Capital” as an information pool and decision-support mechanism in two catchment-scale initiatives (sponsored by the European Union), aimed at community involvement in integrated land and water management. Firstly the conceptual and practical justifications for considering river basins as “multistakeholder platforms” are reviewed, followed by a comparison of the two trial applications in the north of England – to the headwater catchments of the rivers Wharfe and Coquet. What emerges from the comparison and from evaluations of other integrated river basin and coastal zone projects is the importance of information (and its management), continuity and facilitation by project management and a lasting system of monitoring to support adaptive management. The spatial scale of most river basin units defined under the Water Framework Directive is possibly the biggest barrier to widespread adoption of the approach.


  • sustainable development;
  • river basin management;
  • public participation;
  • multistakeholder platforms;
  • EU water framework directive;
  • natural capital;
  • “best practice” land/water management;
  • indigenous knowledge;
  • adaptive management;
  • environmental economics