Fragmented local governance and water resource management outcomes

Jae Hong Kim, Timothy D. Keane, Eric A. Bernard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Fragmented jurisdictions and decision making structures can result in destructive competition and/or a lack of systematic cooperation that can hamper effective resource management and environmental planning, although the value of local autonomy and stakeholder participations should not be underestimated. This study empirically examines if political fragmentation in local governance is a significant barrier to successful resource management. To test this hypothesis, the authors quantify the degree of political fragmentation at two different geographical scales - 1) site-level: 12-digit watersheds and 2) regional: metropolitan statistical areas or equivalent regions - and analyze how water resource management outcomes vary with the level of political fragmentation using nationwide land cover and stream gauge information in the U.S. Regression analysis shows water quality declines (or slower quality improvements), measured in terms of total suspended solids, are associated with both site-level and regional political fragmentation indicators, suggesting that political fragmentation can make resource management more challenging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-386
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Destructive competition
  • Environmental planning
  • Local governance
  • Political fragmentation
  • Water resource management


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