Swimming Upstream

From American and Comparative Environmental Policy

Swimming Upstream

Collaborative Approaches to Watershed Management

Edited by Paul A. Sabatier, Will Focht, Mark Lubell, Zev Trachtenberg, Arnold Vedlitz and Marty Matlock





In recent years, water resource management in the United States has begun a shift away from top-down, government agency-directed decision processes toward a collaborative approach of negotiation and problem solving. Rather than focusing on specific pollution sources or specific areas within a watershed, this new process considers the watershed as a whole, seeking solutions to an interrelated set of social, economic, and environmental problems. Decision making involves face-to-face negotiations among a variety of stakeholders, including federal, state, and local agencies, landowners, environmentalists, industries, and researchers.

Swimming Upstream analyzes the collaborative approach by providing a historical overview of watershed management in the United States and a normative and empirical conceptual framework for understanding and evaluating the process. The bulk of the book looks at a variety of collaborative watershed planning projects across the country. It first examines the applications of relatively short-term collaborative strategies in Oklahoma and Texas, exploring issues of trust and legitimacy. It then analyzes factors affecting the success of relatively long-term collaborative partnerships in the National Estuary Program and in 76 watersheds in Washington and California. Bringing analytical rigor to a field that has been dominated by practitioners' descriptive accounts, Swimming Upstream makes a vital contribution to public policy, public administration, and environmental management.


$70.00 X ISBN: 9780262195201 344 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262693196 344 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Paul A. Sabatier

Paul A. Sabatier is Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis.

Will Focht

Will Focht is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Oklahoma State University.

Mark Lubell

Mark Lubell is Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis.

Zev Trachtenberg

Zev Trachtenberg is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma.

Arnold Vedlitz

Arnold Vedlitz holds the Bob Bullock Chair in Government and Public Policy and is Director of the Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Texas A&M University.

Marty Matlock

Marty Matlock is Associate Professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Arkansas.


  • I've been asking for this book for five years, but wondered who had the ambition and skill to pull it off. I shouldn't have wondered. Sabatier has assembled a top-notch team to address the thorniest issues surrounding collaborative watershed management. Swimming Upstream provides a long overdue infusion of theory and scholarship to a field overrun by dogma and propaganda.

    Doug Kenney

    Natural Resources Law Center, University of Colorado

  • Swimming Upstream represents the product of a sustained and provocative collaboration on the subject of collaboration itself with watershed management in the spotlight. The authors develop and integrate cutting-edge theory, test important hypotheses, and tease out insightful implications for practice as well as research.

    Laurence J. O'Toole, Jr

    Golembiewski Professor, Department of Public Administration and Policy, University of Georgia