Both examples illustrate the simplistic, reductionist, and ad-hoc decision-making when water governance arrangements are not prepared to respond to crises and shocks. These forms of fast decision-making systems tend to adopt relatively reactive approaches to respond to the short-term risks (mainly within the political cycles), have limited capacity to consider system complexity and future uncertainty, fail to deliver cost-effective strategies that acknowledge a variety of interests and values, and are unable to apply effective stakeholder involvement processes (Caball & Malekpour, 2019). Pahl-Wostl et al. (2007) outline the main characteristics of both technocratic and adaptive water management regimes and how these can, or not, deal with future changes, including climate change impacts. The key above-mentioned responses to drought and flood events reflect the predominant technocratic regime. Unsurprisingly, they fell short in effectively dealing with uncertainty related to extreme weather, cascading effects, compound events, and reinforced path-dependency that can lead to maladaptation.
Pahl-Wostl (2017) has reiterated that the linear ‘predict and control’ paradigm is unlikely to address future climate risks because it heavily relies on expectations that uncertainty can be minimized through precise technical data and high confidence assessments. Without a paradigm shift toward more flexible, anticipatory, and adaptive water management approaches, it is unlikely that cities and regions will be better prepared to deal with future system shocks caused by climate change. Notably, the two examples discussed in this chapter point to the inextricable link between droughts and floods and the difficulties of tailoring responses that can address both hazards. Essentially, they continue to be done separately. Additionally, while the new floodplain management plan acknowledges future climate change impacts, the focus predominantly continues to be on creating structures that can minimize the negative effects on communities and assets and shifting responsibilities to individuals as opposed to systemic changes (Maniates, 2002; Welch, Swaffield, & Evans, 2018).
This chapter investigated the responses to two extreme weather events that affected the SEQ region over the last two decades: the Millennium Drought (1997-2007) and the 2010-2011 floods. It was found that the responses were predominantly reactive and responsive to crises as opposed to being a result of strategically planned measures. Additionally, responses followed the search for expensive, resource-intensive engineering solutions whose uses were placed on hold post the crisis peak, especially in the drought case (e.g., recycled water scheme and desalination plant). Both examples show little progress toward implementing more systemic changes that can deal with climate change uncertainty and, therefore, can better deal with unforeseen shocks.
On the positive side, there were significantly effective community responses relating to water usage efficiency and post-flood support to affected residents. However, caution needs to be taken to continue to shift responsibilities to individuals to find solutions to what are systemic problems, which require substantial efforts and leadership from authorities. This is especially important to deal with climate change impacts because dealing with shocks and uncertainty demands significant pro-action and anticipatory governance that need to be driven by authorities and not only individuals in the community.
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