Which river management alternatives does the local populations prefer, and what influences their preferences? Findings from an empirical case study in the Swiss midlands.

Authors and Affiliations: 

Matthias Buchecker and Stefanie Müller
Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Group Social Sciences in Landscape Research, CH-8903 Birmensdorf

Corresponding author: 
Matthias Buchecker

River revitalizations have been propagated in the last decades in Europe in order to combine flood protection and ecological enhancement. Although the wider public generally supports river revitalizations, implementations of projects often meet local resistance (Junker et al., 2007). This has also to do with the fact that local population's wishes and needs are normally not considered in project planning (Buchecker et al., 2013). In our study, we developed different management scenarios for a middle-sized river in a peri-urban region and wanted to find out a) which management scenarios and management aspects the local population prefers and b) which socio-psychological factors influence these preferences. We conducted this study in the valley of the Wigger river, a peri-urban region in the Swiss midlands. Specific of the situation of this river is that two sections have already been revitalised in the last years, whereas a revitalization project is envisaged for two still channelled sections. Based on a qualitative pre-study, a standardised questionnaire that included eight illustrated river management scenarios was sent to a random sample of the regional population (N=2500) as a basis for river management planning as well as a baseline for evaluating the project. The questionnaire measured a wide range of influence factors for the river management scenarios such as place attachment, recreation use, attachment to the river, perception of the state and the meanings of the river, connectedness to nature, perceived flood risk and many socio-demographic items. The survey revealed that the river was, in spite of the strong channelling and the close-by motorway, perceived by the population as quite intact and that the paths along the river were intensively used for recreation. Non-the-less, the population showed strong support for high-level revitalisation alternatives. The influence factors for the preferences of the management alternatives will be analysed using regression analyses, and conclusions will be drawn for integrated river management in peri-urban regions.


Buchecker, M., S. Menzel, and R. Home. 2013. How much does participatory flood management contribute to stakeholders' social capacity building? Empirical findings based on a triangulation of three evalua-tion approaches." Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 13(6):1427-44.

Junker, B., Buchecker, M. and Müller-Böker, U., 2007: Objectives of public participation: Which actors should be involved in the decision making for river restorations. Water resources research, Vol. 43 (10), 1-11.

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