Water Resources Management

, Volume 27, Issue 13, pp 4425–4441 | Cite as

The Added Value of Understanding Informal Social Networks in an Adaptive Capacity Assessment: Explorations of an Urban Water Management System in Indonesia

  • Silva Larson
  • Kim S. Alexander
  • Riyanti Djalante
  • Dewi G. C. Kirono


Social networks play an important role in environmental governance regimes, and they are a key to the adaptive capacity of systems that deal with complex, contextual and multi-faceted issues. Urban water systems are typical examples of complex systems facing many pressures, such as increased population, water quality deterioration, and climate change. This paper explores social networks of the key stakeholders engaged in urban water management, in Makassar City, Indonesia, in the context of exploring ways to improve management of an increasingly complex urban water system. Three social networks were explored; those constituted by formal and informal interactions and networks perceived by stakeholders to be “ideal”. Formal networks were identified through an examination of the legislative instruments and government agencies’ documents relating to water provision in Makassar, while the informal and “ideal” networks were investigated in collaboration with the stakeholders. The research found that the informal social network was more extensive than were the formally required networks, and the investigation of informal networks created a potentially more robust and adaptive water management system than would have occurred through inclusion of formal institutional arrangements. We suggest that in examination of the adaptive capacity of an urban water system, one also considers the informal arrangements and linkages, as this additional information about the system is necessary to enhance our understanding of potential adaptation of water management and improved urban water systems.


Adaptive capacity Complex adaptive systems Institutional arrangements Integrated urban water management (IUWM) Makassar Perceptions of water system 



This study was funded by the AusAID CSIRO Research for Development Alliance’s project entitled “Climate adaptation through sustainable urban development”. Appreciation is expressed for significant contributions from the CSIRO project team members (in particular, Grace Tjandraatmadja) and research partners from the Hasanuddin University in Makassar (Profs Roland Barkey, Amran Ahmad, Mary Selintung, Ananto Yudono, Dharmawan Salman and Kaimuddin Mole, and the students). Figure 1 was kindly prepared by Muhammad Nur Iman. This study would not be possible without generous contribution of time by project stakeholders themselves. Useful comments on previous drafts were provided by Ms Liana Williams, Dr Tom Measham and Dr Tony Darbas.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silva Larson
    • 1
    • 4
  • Kim S. Alexander
    • 1
    • 5
  • Riyanti Djalante
    • 2
  • Dewi G. C. Kirono
    • 3
  1. 1.CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Climate Adaptation FlagshipClayton SouthAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Environment and GeographyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Climate Adaptation FlagshipAspendaleAustralia
  4. 4.AquaEnergie LLC, USA and School of BusinessJames Cook UniversityAustralia
  5. 5.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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