The aim of the project was to document how a waterside community articulates its relationship with its water environment in the context of changing water conditions, to uncover if opinions, actions and practices enacted at the local level could be described as resilient. Resilience has been depicted within a range of literatures as the social-ecological asset which underpins the ability of communities to cope with change at all levels of social life. Within the UK, government policy encourages local communities to become ‘resilient’. This work’s unique contribution is to explore how a local community’s own articulation and perception of resilience accords with the expectations and presumptions of governance agencies.
The project sought to work iteratively ‘between’ theoretical, policy and civil society understandings of resilience to ascertain what actually is experienced in a waterside community itself.
As the study wished to capture as wide a perspective as possible regarding how changing water conditions is understood at the micro level, respondents were invited to share what they felt was of interest, negatively and positively, regarding their local water resources. A two tier approach has been adopted.
- The first stage was to access local community portals, such as parish councils, retirement homes, community events, the library, the local health centre and community groups such as sports clubs and environmental groups together with neighbourhood associations and local businesses to communicate the aims of the project and invite local community members to take part.
- The second stage focused on the responses from local authorities, NGOs and regulatory agencies whose jurisdiction lies within the study site, to see how far community responses map onto those with governance responsibilities. The project utilised multi-method qualitative empirical fieldwork techniques, using semi-structured interviews, photo and text elicitation to identify how respondents understand resilience within a water resources context.
As the project was concerned with capturing resilience in action within a non-aggravated, low profile setting, there was no one catchment that took precedence over another. Within the UK the water utility provision is geographically diverse. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England have their own institutional jurisdictions for water provision. As the research is based at the University of Brighton it makes pragmatic sense to choose an atypical catchment accessible to the University, one which would benefit from research analysis and had not experienced intervention fatigue. On this basis the River Adur was selected.
The selected site along the River Adur were the villages of Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding that are all closely connected to one another through the proximity of the River Adur. It is possible to walk between all three within twenty minutes. Steyning is the larger of the three villages and sits above the river with only a small portion of the village sited against the River Adur’s floodplain. Both Bramber and Upper Beeding have the river running through them and as a result have experienced intermittent historical flooding.
Selecting three villages which are close in proximity to each other and the river, but which have a different spatial relationship with the river enabled a comparative assessment of the perception of resilience and actualisation of resilient tropes amongst the local community.