America's Rivers and the American Experiment
America's rivers are managed, over long periods of time, based on the most basic ideologies of the United States (U.S.) government. An essential notion of the U.S. government, and thus a necessity of river management, is governing as experiment. This leads to three necessary characteristics of river management: (1) adapting management practices based on experience and thus creating management and agency structures that are highly malleable and that can change directions, (2) overlapping of management roles and responsibilities between agencies which includes intentional redundancy and interagency competition, and (3) federalism - the devolution of responsibilities between national, state, and other unit governments (e.g., municipalities, counties). While these characteristics are often criticized as inefficient, in fact they have provided a surprisingly effective system for river management that has responded to the needs of society at different times and in different places. A key question for river and water resource managers is whether this particular system, so initially unappealing, is best able to meet the future needs of the U.S. © 2012 American Water Resources Association.
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