Measuring water or relating water. On the participatory use of indicators

Democratizing measurement: Participatory indicators
By Sandrine Petit, Marie-Hélène Vergote

We analyze three situations where indicators and participation are mixed to manage water with a view to the future, in the context of watersheds situated in Burgundy (France). When the indicator is used to deliberate in order to make a decision, it loses some of its cognitive qualities and the debate is biased by asymmetries between participants. When participants interpret future situations, the collective frees itself from figures by shifting to words, and the absence of external judgment opens up the debate. We end with more ambitious participatory schemes where indicators are a basis for thinking, rather than an end.


  • participation
  • water resources
  • indicators
  • climate change
  • public water management
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