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The social dimensions of a river’s environmental quality assessment

  • Anne-Lise Boyer
  • Emeline Comby
  • Silvia Flaminio
  • Yves-François Le Lay
  • Marylise Cottet
Research Article


Integrated water resources management, promoted in developed countries, obliges to integrate social aspects with hydrological and ecological dimensions when assessing river quality. To better understand these social aspects, we propose a mixed-method to study public perceptions of an impounded river. Since the 1930s, the management of the Ain river (France) has been challenged by conflicts about the river’s quality. We surveyed (using interviews and mental maps) various stakeholders along the river. The results based on textual and content analysis show variations in the public’s perceptions according to the residence area, practices, and the degree of emotional attachment to the river. The assessment of environmental quality needs to take into account different types of knowledge, sometimes conflicting, that reveal and shape the variety of waterscapes which compose the Ain River. The social dimensions highlight integrated water management’s inherent complexity by considering the river basin as a place to live and by involving multiple stakeholders.


Environmental quality Indicators Mental maps Public perceptions Stakeholders Waterscape 



This research project was part of a research program entitled “Living the Ain River: 19th–21st century”, which was funded by the Rhône Basin LITER (Long Term Ecological Research), the Rhône-Méditerranée Water Agency, and Électricité de France (EDF).


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS UMR 5600 Environnement Ville Société, ENS de Lyon, 15 Parvis René DescartesUniversity of LyonLyon Cedex 07France
  2. 2.UMR 6049 ThéMA, Université de Franche-ComtéUniversity of Franche-ComtéBesançon CedexFrance

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