Economic Instruments of Water Security Working Group


  • Assess the complex dynamics occurring among diverse stakeholders during decision making processes as a basis for developing recommendations for optimizing policy and economic instruments (NAS, WAL, PWS) for watershed sustainability and societal benefits.
  • Explore the impacts, challenges, and opportunities of a range of policy and economic instruments (NAS, WAL, PWS) to enhance watershed sustainability in a range of case studies.
  • Identify and synthesize key emerging principles, best management practices, social and economic drivers influencing decision-making processes across a wide range of diverse political, cultural, socioeconomic, and environmental contexts. Looking beyond water panaceas, the WG will acknowledge ecological and socioeconomic diversity and build evidence that is relevant for adapting these fundamental principles to local case-specific contexts.
  • Further develop an existent international network of scientists, practitioners, decision-makers, and relevant stakeholders to share knowledge and expertise, and maintain a dialogue on policy and economic instruments for healthy watersheds.
  • Engage decision-makers and other actors in research on watershed sustainability and produce relevant research outputs to inform science-driven policy.


  • Organize a Special Session and in-person Working Group meeting related to this Working Group at the XVIth World Water Congress in Cancun, Mexico, June 2017.
  • Develop an integrative Working Group framework that outlines the key research questions, strategic plan, and outputs.
  • Identify subtask working groups and make associated research and writing assignments
  • Develop and submit joint grant proposals to support research initiatives.
  • Prepare thematic conceptual briefs for the Water Futures newsletter.
  • Develop a first draft of a white paper on best practices for economic instruments for promoting water security and sustainable watersheds.




The Working Group (WG) will build ex-ante and ex-post evidence on the environmental and socio-economic performance of emerging strategies for enhancing water security[1], and inform decision makers on the costs, benefits and trade-offs of water reform. A strong emphasis will be placed on understanding the challenges and opportunities for developing cost-effective nature-based solutions and economic instruments in water resources management, through (but not limited to) national assurance schemes (NAS), water abstraction licenses (WAL), and payment for watershed services (PWS). A key unifying element across these instruments is their common goal of watershed sustainability and socioeconomic resiliency. All build on a deep understanding of the interactions and feedbacks in complex socio-ecological systems. The trans-disciplinary expertise of the WG reconciles front-line research on micro- and macro-economics, institutional economics, public policy, sociology, law, biology, hydrology, and ecology.  Leveraging on this critical mass of knowledge the WG will analyse and model complex socio-ecological systems and assess the institutional dynamics that shape water reform. Information will be provided at fine local, regional and/or basin scales, closely associated with the institutions that must undertake reform options, and then synthesize the lessons learned and opportunities for broad application at the global scale. Through active stakeholder engagement and inclusive debate this knowledge will be transferred to decision-makers to inform their choices; consistent with the approach of Sustainable Water Future’s “Water Solutions Lab Network”, and aptly contributing to its goals.   [1] “Safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability”. (UN-Water, 2013)

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