Water Governance Core Group


Governance is a topic of major relevance, which is addressed by many of the various working groups of Water Future. Hence it is important that governance scholars participate in these working groups and address governance challenges in inter- and transdisciplinary, solution-oriented settings. At the same time water governance is yet an emerging field of scholarship and multidisciplinary research in the social sciences. To strengthen such scholarship and the development of a global community of water governance scholars Water Future implements a cross-cutting theme on water governance. This cross-cutting activity continues and further expands the successful work of Water Future in the water governance domain.

The objectives are:

  • conduct basic research on water governance theories and practice addressing key water governance challenges;
  • synthesise insights related to water governance from the various working groups;
  • develop evidence-based governance indicators and pathways following a global comparative, synthesising, integrative approach to identify gaps in water governance (particularly develop governance indicators, assess and compare policies towards SDGs implementation);
  • nurture a global community of water governance scholars including early career researchers; and
  • develop a global educational course on water governance for different stakeholders.


This cross-cutting activity should nurture a community or practice of water governance scholars.

The following kinds of activities and products are envisaged:

  • meta-analyses of existing studies on water governance;
  • synthesis papers on the various water governance themes addressed above;
  • contributions to the Springer Book Series on Water Governance;
  • implementation and maintenance of a water governance data base;
  • development of a diagnostic approach – diagnostic tool box – that supports context-sensitive diagnosis of water governance problems and the identification of solutions, strategies how to address these problems. Such a toolbox would be closely linked to the emerging network of water solution laboratories of Water Future; and
  • implementation of a network of regional test-beds for transformative water governance.




Prevailing water governance systems do not meet the challenges posed by complex water management problems, by increasing resource scarcity and by highly dynamic and uncertain conditions. Changes in water governance are needed. However, simplistic recipes have proven to be inappropriate and even detrimental to inform and guide water governance reform. Recent research provides insights on requirements for more adaptive and flexible water governance systems, on the need to take into account politics and power structures and context conditions to explain success and failure of existing governance arrangements, on the interplay between structure and agency to explain change in water governance systems. Needed are syntheses of existing studies to guide the development of innovative research priorities in conversation with professionals and practitioners to improve impact. Furthermore, an overarching analytical framework can foster comparison of different studies, to lay the foundations for progress in our understanding the builds on cumulative knowledge. In particular the following research areas require attention:

  • transformative water governance – combines governance of transformation and the transformation of governance;
  • polycentric governance structures that combine the distribution of power and authority with effective coordination of the different partly autonomous governance units.
Regarding coordination of particular interest are:
  • multi-level governance – understanding vertical coordination;
  • horizontal – cross sectoral coordination, in particular governance of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus;
  • integration of governance modes (metagovernance, reflexive governance) that combines bureaucratic hierarchies, markets and networks; and
  • Governance and the SDGs.

Relevant Links

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