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A retrospective look at the evolution of irrigation governance in the Beauce area (1993-2008) Volume 20, issue 3, juillet-août-septembre 2009

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Centre EREIA (EA 4026) CLERSE (UMR 8019 CNRS-Univ. Lille 1) Université d’Artois 9, rue du temple BP 10665 62030 ARRAS

The calcareous Beauce aquifer, located to the West of Paris, has a quite peculiar administrative position. Because this aquifer is one of the most important of France in terms of volume and needs, the institutions related to its management have different responsibilities causing conflicts of interest at all levels of the hierarchical governance structure. More precisely, the aquifer occupies six local departments, two regions and two regional water basins. Conflicts arising from water quality degradation and a three-year period of dramatic drought, coupled with an important increase in the pumping of water for irrigation, has increased social awareness regarding the sustainability of this resource. This article studies the institutional process of water management implemented over the last fifteen years. After a brief history of the administrative measures adopted since the mid-90’s, we study the emergence of a multi-stakeholder procedure, namely the SAGE process, and some of the voluntary measures which have emerged from the context of conflict between irrigators and NGO’s. This study helps us to identify the governance of the Beauce Aquifer as a compromise between Collective Action for Public Interest and Collective Action for Community Interest.