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Water for you and me, or water for us? Regional collaboration in drinking water systems

Kate Albrecht and Jason Michnick

October 2022


This simulation is a fictionalized case of governance decisions regarding drinking water provision in northeastern Illinois. The local stakeholders are grappling with rising drinking water prices, depleting aquifers, and highly regulated access to Lake Michigan water. The simulation is designed for undergraduate and graduate students and professionals to be utilized in courses that examine municipal government decision-making, collaborative governance to address complex public problems, and strategic management of public services. The Task Force Meeting activity in this simulation gives students the opportunity to first reflect upon, and articulate, their stakeholder’s interest in collaboration. Next, the students engage in a facilitated discussion in which their orientation toward collaboration may shift. The final output of this simulation is a policy memo to share back with local-level policymakers about next steps in the governance of drinking water provision. A key aspect of this simulation is that it directly challenges students to integrate stakeholder perspectives in the process of choosing short-term and long-term collaboration options in a polycentric and fragmented setting. Additionally, this simulation includes the option for students to choose not to collaborate, reflecting the reality of the complexities of governance decisions, municipal capacity, and public opinion about drinking water provision.

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