Participatory selection of indicators for water resources planning and strategic environmental assessment in Portugal

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International agencies, non-governmental organisations, technical experts, and academia have strongly recommended that water resources planning and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) processes should be supported by indicators that can be used to characterise, assess and monitor water resources overtime against management objectives. Moreover, indicators are used to measure the performance of actions implemented to goals and provide simple and meaningful information to stakeholders. The main goal of this research was the operationalization of a stakeholder engagement process for the selection of key indicators to support water resources planning and SEA processes. Those indicators can be adapted to all Portuguese river basin districts and be used through consecutive cycles of planning. The process was developed in four main stages: (1) collection of suitable indicators; (2) analysis and screening of indicators, (3) stakeholders' workshop and (4) reflection and refinement of the indicator set. A set of 35 key indicators were selected as the most relevant by stakeholders in the participatory workshop. A final analysis carried out by the research team resulted in a streamlined set with 22 indicators organised in four thematic areas (resources, socioeconomics, governance and risks). This set of key indicators may not be able to capture all specific planning objectives for all river basin regions. In such cases, it will be necessary to add specific indicators to the set proposed herein. This research demonstrated the relevance and usefulness of using a participatory approach in developing a set of key indicators for supporting water resources planning and SEA processes, and the proposed methodology can be used in different contexts. The participatory process fostered stakeholders' commitment to the planning and SEA processes and assured increased fitness of the selected indicators.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106701
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Indicators
  • Participatory process
  • Selection criteria
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Strategic environmental assessment
  • Water resources planning


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