Governance and Institutions

© András Szöllösi-Nagy
© András Szöllösi-Nagy.

It is true that the global water supply faces severe pressures in terms of its distribution, quality, and uses—but strong state governance, including integrated and participatory approaches, can go a long way towards alleviating these transboundary challenges. 

Water governance refers to the political, social, economic, legal, and administrative systems that develop and manage the various levels of water resources and water services delivery, while recognizing the role played by environmental services.

In many countries water governance is in a state of confusion: in some countries there is a total lack of water institutions, while others display fragmented institutional structures or conflicting decision-making structures. 

Water governance reforms are being driven by growing populations, internal pressures on water resources, environmental threats, and the international community’s focus on poverty alleviation and socio-economic development (e.g. Millennium Development Goals). However the rate of reform is patchy and slow. In developing countries there are serious gaps between land and water use policies and governance, as well as between policymaking and its implementation; these are often due to corruption, institutional resistance to change, etc.

Many governments recognize the need to localize water management but fail to delegate the powers and resources needed to make it work sufficiently. 

Promising solutions involve preparing institutions to deal with current and future challenges through development marked by decentralization, stakeholder participation and transparency, increased corporatization (where justly feasible), partnerships and coordination (public-private, public-public, public-civil society), and new administrative systems based on shared benefits of water, including when water crosses borders. 


Facts and figures extracted from WWDR3, Water in a Changing World (2009). Click on the links to know more!

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