Berardo, R., & Gerlak, A. K. (2012). Conflict and Cooperation along International Rivers: Crafting a Model of Institutional Effectiveness. Global Environmental Politics, 12(1), 101–120.

The effectiveness of institutions tasked with the management of international water resources is discussed by Berardo and Gerlak. They provide a framework through which effectiveness can be assessed and “conditions under which institutions are most like to foster meaningful cooperation in the management of shared rivers” and be explored (102), though they argue that the design elements of the framework are “necessary but not sufficient conditions for a complete explanation of cooperative outcomes to interstate problems and conflicts along international rivers” (106).

The framework they propose involves two levels for examining effectiveness. The first level – a broad level focused on interstate agreements – helps to “structure and shape the relationships among all parties involved in the use of the common resource” (103-104). This can involve river basin commissions, that can provide the space for state interaction, as well as knowledge exchange and achievement of settlements (104).

The second level addresses the process design elements – the processes that are continually challenged to achieve collaborative solutions to problems in shared river basins. These design process elements are, briefly,
– Transparency in decision making processes
– Production and dissemination of scientific knowledge
– Conflict resolution
– Public input and representation

Each of these second level process design elements, as the authors stress, are needed but not sufficient to achieve cooperation along international rivers. Dinar et al. (2014) discuss institutional mechanisms relevant to treaty resilience and stability – including enforcement, monitoring, conflict resolution, and international joint committees or commissions. This suggests that a number of process design elements or ‘mechanisms’ have been discussed throughout the discourse literature, and that instead of a silver bullet(s) for institution design and success, a suite of options must be considered, depending on context, history, social and ecological realities, political situation, etc.

For reference, below is the framework diagram Berardo and Gerlik (2012) developed at the conclusion of this paper. The change they made, after the analysis of their case study, is to relocation of the design element ‘public input and representation’ to an intermediate position between interstate agreement and process design, at the first level of effectiveness (114). This was done to reflect the reality that “Given the importance of water as a scarce resource upon which whole communities depend for their livelihood, no decisions should be made without assigning a central role to the representatives of those communities” (114).

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The authors champion the stance that room must be made for local participation and public input into decision-making processes. This echos the theme of localism, discussed and critiqued by Norman and Bakker (2009), as well as reflecting the importance of ‘polycentricity’ and multilevel governance (Andersson and Ostrom 2008) within institutional processes for natural resource governance. Though, where Norman and Bakker (2009) provide a critique at length of localism as inherently the most suitable scale for governance over water resources, Berardo and Gerlak (2012) simply argue that public input and representation must be part of the decision-making process, so as to “incorporate a wider range of voices” (114)

The issue of effectiveness of institutions has been discussed throughout the literature i’ve read, most notably by Oran Young (1999), to which I will write on separately.

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Dore, J., Lebel, L., & Molle, F. (2012). A framework for analysing transboundary water governance complexes, illustrated in the Mekong Region. Journal of Hydrology, 466-467, 23–36

Most useful from this article are the definitions provided for a number of important concepts found throughout the water discourse literature. For instance:

Water governance: understood as a social process of dialogue, negotiation and decision-making; or, instrumentally, as a means to achieve pre-determined objectives (23)

Flows: flows of people and capital the result of spatial differences in wealth, job opportunities, resource endowments, environmental degradation, business regulation, law enforcement and political freedom – these flows reshape societies and economies and usually add further pressure to natural resources, including rivers and groundwaters (24)

Scale: defined as the spatial, temporal, quantitative, or analytical dimensions used to measure, or rank, and study any phenomenon
• Temporal scale – management and electoral cycles
• Spatial scale – domains of administration, hydrology, economy or ecosystem (27)

Level: unit of analysis located at different positions on a scale
• E.g. administration scale can have district, provincial, national and regional levels, whereas levels of interest to hydrologist will likely be watersheds, aquifers, sub-basin, national river basin, and international river basins (27)

The authors situation their proposed framework for transboundary water governance analysis in the Mekong Region. The identified key elements of the framework are context, drivers, arenas, tools, decisions and impacts.

Though not entirely relevant for my own purposes, the take-away points from this article are the clarifications and understandings given on issues such as discourse, institutions, leaders, understandings around power. Less so are the identification of deliberation tools used to explore options, examine technical outputs and contestation over discourses. Specifically, these tools are: Multistakeholder Platforms (MSP), technical tools (CBA, IA, modeling), and advocacy tools (lobbying, protesting, advertising, debating, etc).

If I choose to use the Mekong River basin as a case study location, this article will be more useful. At the moment, it’s usefulness lies in the definitions of concept provided.

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Furlong, K. (2006). Hidden theories, troubled waters: International relations, the “territorial trap”, and the Southern African Development Community’s transboundary waters. Political Geography, 25(4), 438–458.

Furlong’s (2006) article critiquing the IR/IO theorizing in the international watercourses literature addresses important limitations found throughout the literature. Her main critique is on the regime approach to water discourse and the territorial trap, which obscure water realities within states and between communities. She also invokes the hegemonic stability theory to explain and understand the substance of watercourse agreements.

The territorial trap: Couched within a regime approach to water discourse, Agnew’s (1994) territorial trap involves three crutches: 1) “the reification [(making something abstract into something real)] of sovereignty as complete state control over a fixed unit of territorial space; 2) the severing of domestic and foreign politics; and, 3) the state as prior to and a container of society” (442). As illustrated in her case study of the SADC, this triad is often exhibited simultaneously.

What the territorial trap risks is ignoring, or obscuring, the decisions about access to and use of a scarce resource involving actors at multiple scales – from the international, national/governmental, regional, community, and household levels (442). In my estimation, this is an argument for multilevel governance in water resource management and governance, which requires a shift from the regime approach and the territorial trap. Furlong argues that a critical geopolitical and political ecology approach to water discourse can illuminate the shortcomings and limitations of an IR/IO theorization, and allow for the inclusion of facets, such as intra-state social and political realities, into the discussion.

The ‘hegemonic stability theory’ “holds that hegemonic structures of power, dominated by a single country, are most conducive to the development of strong international regimes whose rules are relatively precise and well observed” (Keohane, 1980, p. 132 cited in Furlong, 2006, p. 443). Furlong argues, however, that historical realities and the geographies of water resources, which have a strong influence on relations between riparians, are ignored.

Furlong’s argument that hegemonic stability theory does not necessarily require a strong hegemon is quite interesting, as it opens up the possibility for the compression (or elimination entirely) of spatial considerations in hegemonic influence in a water basin. Furlong argues “hegemony does not require a hegemon but can come in the form of (and always with) an ideology that conditions behaviour of actors in world politics – in contemporary geopolitical order, according to this approach, the hegemonic ideology is market liberalism” (443). The hegemonic ideology we are perhaps most familiar with – market liberalism – is propagated by the usual suspects – the World Bank, IMF, and WTO (443).

Furlong illustrates hegemony as an ideology. But, it finds its teeth in ‘governmentality’, “through the degrees of force and reason…ordered visions of space, territory, and geography are imposed upon ambivalent lands, terrains, and cultures to coincide with imperial imperatives and perspectives” (443). Indeed, the practice of governmentality is expressed by Bakker (2009) in her analysis of the Mekong, which shifted from a Cold War ‘front line’ into a ‘corridor of commerce’ – from the ideology of securitization during the Cold War to an ideology of market liberalism (443).

Stocked with more interesting insight, Furlong illuminates how the IR/IO theorization that argues interdependence and reciprocity can reduce asymmetric gains (which are significant obstacles to cooperation among states), is flawed. IO theorization states that integration addresses asymmetries; that the maximization of system values (i.e. the economic value of water over the whole system) can be achieved through large-scale infrastructure projects (444). It shouldnt be a surprise then that IO’s such as the WB heavily invest in hydroelectric development. Yet, what this obscures, Furlong argues, is intra-national impacts on marginalized and economically poorer regions and communities (evident in her example of the LHWP). Though hydropower development may increase cooperation between states at the international level, an IR/IO theorization does not address the “experiences of individuals and communities residing in and around the basin” and propagates the ‘state as container’ model (445).

Water Scarcity:
IR approaches to scarcity are unable to expose the common experience of water scarcity as ‘droughts for the poor and floods for the rich’ (Bond, Ruiters, & Stein, 2002, p. 271 cited in Furlong 2006, p. 447). Furlong is saying that water scarcity is not strictly a biophysical phenomenon, or evenly experienced. Scarcity is uneven, and affects poor and rich differently. The IR approach can recognize water scarcity between states, but is unable to look at social relations within states that unevenly distribute water nor explain the social aspects of water scarcity. Water scarcity is more than an expression of equations that “link population density and growth to availability of freshwater resources, it is a socio-historical production” (447).

Perhaps the most important line from this article is this: “The management of international watercourses is not simply about the water that flows through them today, but the particular histories of how the water within them and the local human and environmental relationships to them have been produced” (448). These complexities are simply beyond the ability of an IR/IO theorization of the water discourse to interpret, let alone identify, when the focus is on the state-to-state relationships, guided by a hegemonic ideology of market liberalization. It strikes me that this hegemonic ideology is alive and well, as I look at an OECD report (2014) entitled “Water Governance in the Jordan: Overcoming the Challenges to Private Sector Participation”. The “establishment of strong PPP capabilities” are considered tools to address planning gaps in the water utility sector in Jordan (p. 9 of the report). Furlong reminds us that public-private partnerships and full-cost pricing are often part of the neoliberal model. Though a loosely put together example on my part, it none-the-less suggests a hegemonic ideology of market liberalism at work.

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The territorial trap, triadic critique of state as actor in IR/IO theorization

Considering the most recent framing of my research question, the two cases will help to illustrate how domestic policies have shaped transboundary water governance processes. Both of these examples come from Furlong (2006), and challenge the triad of the regime approach’s territorial trap, inherent in IR/IO theorization of the water discourse. The first example challenges the notion of the severance of domestic and foreign policies, while the second exhibits the triad simultaneously.

First, during the apartheid era, South Africa was not invited as a participant into the precursor to SADC – the Southern African Development Coordination Conference. After apartheid ended, South Africa adopted water policies (constitutionally upheld) that enshrined water as a human right, and endorsed the “decentralization of water provision while keeping it under national control” (Furlong 2006, p. 446). With the inclusion of South Africa into SADCC, the domestic water policies of South Africa – especially the privatization of water – “shifted to an internationally favoured neoliberal model that includes full-cost pricing as a step toward potential privatization and public-private partnerships” (Furlong 2006, p. 446). Here, the domestic policies in South Africa influenced the approach the SADCC (and the SADC after) took towards water governance in the region.

The second example is in the Okavango delta. Botswana, as the downstream riparian, intended to develop hydroelectric dams on the river. International environmental pressure halted these developments, challenging the sovereignty of the riparian nation. Following the change of development plans for their part of the basin, Botswana signed the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, in part to “stave off development on the Okavango by the other (upstream) basin states” (Furlong 2006, p. 446). This allowed the Botswana government to appear as the environmental ‘good guy’, in “response to its lack of sovereign ability to pursue its own” developmental plans in the face of both international and domestic pressure (Furlong 2006, p. 446). Their change in domestic policies, after a challenge to their sovereignty, then influenced governance processes in the delta amongst the riparians.

Agnew and Corbridge’s (1995) triadic critique of the state as actor in the IR/IO model is relevant to my own approach. If domestic policies are shaped by sub-state actors, this challenges the notion of the state as the container of society. If these domestic policies are then influential in international governance processes, this challenges the notion of domestic and foreign policies being severed. If absolute state control over a fixed unit of territorial space (a river) is challenged by international governance processes (a basin organization), then sovereignty as complete state control no longer holds.

What theorization can explain these occurrences? As Rathgeber (1996, p. 49 cited in Furlong, 2006, p. 442) states, “in situations of scarcity, decisions about access to and use of water involve actors at the intergovernmental, governmental, regional, community, and household levels and often become highly politicized”. This appears to be an argument for multilevel governance, and a shift from the regime approach that holds to the tenets of the territorial trap. But, it does not address the geographical scale at which to address water related challenges. Multiple scales of actors can be included in decision-making processes, but at what geographical (spatial) scale do you address the actual water challenge? Is it a watershed approach?

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Research question – take 3!

Recognizing that my research focus and question was getting a little 1) convoluted, and 2) difficult to find empirical evidence for, M-L suggested a way to simplify. This is in line with what ST suggested as well last we spoke.

How are domestic water interests shaping transboundary water governance regimes and institutions for shared waters between two or more sovereign nations? And, specifically, how do urban water interests articulated by sub-state actors, interact with transboundary water governance regimes?

I recognize I will need to clarify and distinguish between ‘regime’ and ‘institution’. This is just a first cut of the latest framing. I think it will be important to look at this as a multi-scale (ouch!) approach. I will want to explore how domestic water interests shape governance regimes for shared waters. This may seem like a foregone conclusion – of course domestic water interests shape governance regimes. If we consider states as representing their own (domestic) interests in negotiations (whose other interests would they represent?) and governance regimes over shared waters, then the stance a state takes would inherently be reflect its domestic interests. Yet, this risks keeping the analysis within the confines of a regime approach, explicit in IR literature, and stuck in the ‘territorial trap’, which focuses “on the nation-state as the geographical scale of sole or primary importance” (Norman and Bakker, 2009, p. 100).

But, as argued by Hirsch and Jensen (2006), many states could be guilty of not representing their ‘national interests’ in TW regimes/institutions, as evidence in the Mekong River Commission. Often, a narrow set of interests from a powerful/influential sector or elite are what is represented as the ‘national interest’. I might then decipher if powerful interests are in fact being represented as dressed up as the national interest. Further, this might lead me to inquire whether these interests represent urban water needs, or the water needs of other sectors. It would be interesting to understand who has been articulating these water needs at the domestic scale (networks of sub-state actors focused on urban water issues, municipalities themselves).

This certainly still needs some moulding. Im still at the ‘giving a haircut with a shotgun’ stage – its still all a bit messy.

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Reed, M. G., & Bruyneel, S. (2010). Rescaling environmental governance, rethinking the state: A three-dimensional review. Progress in Human Geography, 34(5), 646–653

This article provides a critical perspective on the notion of multi-level governance and the perceived ‘hollowing-out’ of the state. Though multi-level governance implies inclusion of a variety of actors at different scales, all engaged in management over a resources, or to address an environmental issue, the research shows that examining short and long-term time horizons illustrates how state roles are altered in multiscalar processes “but [the role of the state] is not necessarily diminished” (651). Further, in the case of water governance “it appears that the state retains the balance of power despite efforts to increasingly engage local people in governance” (650).

This is an important point made throughout this article; that multilevel governance, or polycentricity, does not inherently mean a diminished role for the central state. In fact, in transboundary water governance, research has shown that although there has been devolved authority to lower levels of government or to sub-state actors (such as watershed boards), the central state still retains many governing and decision-making powers.

What is often the greatest challenge to engagement of sub-state actors in transboundary governance processes are a number of issues, including: insufficient supporting resources, asymmetrical participation of actors and mismatched governance structures across the border, spatial distance between actors, and the limited capacity of local actors (650). These are important considerations when advocating for inclusion of actors across scales in governance processes. An important critique of the ‘watershed approach’ is that the local scale is often assumed to be the most appropriate in which to govern – following the subsidiarity rule/principle. This can very well be true in certain circumstances. Though, as most geographers know, place and context are critical. And, in this instance, it depends on the capacity of local actors, their access to resources (financial, human), and when discussing cross-border governance, whether local actors are able to participate with actors across the border.

The authors provided a simple distinction between government and governance, and environmental government:
Government: the formal, centralized and vertical exercise of power and authority, such as through regulation or market-based instruments (647)
Governance: power and authority are horizontally decentralized and devolved to broader members of society (647)
Environmental Governance: Involves a range of formal and informal institutions, social groups, processes, interactions, and traditions, all of which influence how power is exercised, how public decisions are taken, how citizens become engaged or disaffected, and who gains legitimacy and influence (647)

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Toly, Noah. (2011). “Cities, the environment, and global governance: A political ecological perspective” in Amen, M., Toly, N., McCarney, P., & Segbers, K. (2011). Cities and global governance: new sites for international relations. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

In this chapter, Toly makes an interesting point, similar to what Conca (2006) refers to in his critique of a regime approach to global environmental degradation. Toly states “patterns of global production, distribution, and consumption shape local distributions of environmental goods and ills, especially risks, in cities” (p. 138). The connection between local production processes and global consumption patterns is often overlooked and under appreciated. Where local environmental degradation impacts lives and livelihoods, ecosystems and environments, it is critical to understand how global processes shape the local impacts. Brownfields and air pollution are provided as examples by Toly.

This connection between global consumption and local production is one recognized by Conca (2006) in his critique of a regime approach to global environmental governance. Conca (2006) argues the regime approach does not address environmental challenges that lay within national boundaries, which is the purview of national governments (who claim authority for national environmental laws and regulations), and reinforces the notion of the planet as being ‘bordered’, with authority vested most powerfully in state actors. The problem with the regime approach, according to Conca (2006), and the point made by Toly (2011), is that global patterns shape local processes. But, a regime approach applies only to environmental issues which may straddle a border, and do not address the domestic implications of global processes. Conca argues that causes and consequences are not aligned – local environmental problems are appropriate subjects in a discussion of ‘global environmental governance’, but the causes (the transnational character of economic, social, and political institutions) are not part of the ‘global’ discussion – they are left for the ‘domestic’ realm to address.

Correspondingly, local environmental impacts have ‘profoundly global implications through their cumulative impact on key global systems and cycles and their increasingly far-flung reverberations across a densely interconnected social world’ (Conca, 2006, p. 19). This implies that the ecological world does not recognize the jurisdictional borders placed upon the planet. From a watershed approach, one could argue that we are all downriver of someplace. The challenge, as posed by Conca, is to ‘deal with the accumulating impact on local ecosystems in a world where political, economic, cultural, and informational borders have been obliterated’ (2006, p. 20).

Toly (2011) illustrates the impact of an ecologically borderless world, which challenges the notion of externalizing risks and damages associated with industrial development, with the case of Hong Kong’s polluting industries migrating to mainland China, where environmental policies are lax. Often referred as ‘the race to the bottom’, jurisdictions with poor environmental policies, or abilities to enforce environmental legislation, find themselves contending with heavily polluting industries from abroad. Yet, in the case of industry from Hong Kong, the air pollution supposedly externalized to China eventually drifted across the Pearl River in a “toxic cloudbank”, and impacted air quality in Hong Kong (Toly 2011, p. 141-143).

This notion of ‘the race to the bottom’ has been disputed, through what is referred to as the ‘California Effect’. This is in reference to higher standards for automotive emissions. With some of the strongest air emission controls in the US, automakers are required to meet these stringent standards, lest they loose out on the automotive sector in Cali. Instead of developing technology for California only, and resorting to lower emission control technology for the rest of the US, automakers often develop technology that meets the Cali standards, and uses this in cars destined for the rest of the country. This could also be referred to a ‘scale-up effect’ for clean technology development. California also provides ‘regulatory certainty’, whereby industry knows the standards they must meet, and can plan long-term strategies for this. Investment in an environment where regulations change quickly and unpredictably is unfavourable to industry.

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Suhardiman, D., & Giordano, M. (2012). Process-focused analysis in transboundary water governance research. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 12(3), 299–308.

A good review paper of a series of articles from a special section in the journal.

Current research directions on transboundary water governance processes are noting the role played by actors at scales above and below the formal state level; the formal state level being the traditional domain of transboundary water governance and treaty development processes. The authors argue in this paper that focusing only on the state in defining formal governance structures for transboundary water governance “ignores a myriad of other (potential actors)…and does not explain how state decision-making develops from or influences intra-national power dynamics, as it tends to overlook the scalar relationships and interactions between regional, national, sub-national, and local” (300). These other potential actors allow us to broaden our outlook and understanding of how transboundary waters are governed and shared.

The authors do not contend that actors at other scales replace the formal role played by the state; instead, what we are seeing is a complimentary role played by other actors to the state, which can shape negotiation processes in transboundary watersheds (301). This is evident with the Columbia Basin Trust – a quasi-governmental organization (crown corporation), which represents actors and other levels of government below the provincial and federal state, at the negotiation table for the CBT.

Looking at the role of sub-state actors in transboundary water governance processes provides “an entry point for developing process-focused approaches in transboundary water governance research” (299). A ‘process-focused approach’ has relevance for my proposed research direction, as it “would allow analysis of how various actors strategically shape the overall power interplay and determine the actual transboundary water governance outcomes” (303). In this sense, using a process-focused approach would help me to understand how urban actors influence the outcomes of transboundary water negotiations and/or governance processes. Further, if I am to look at transnational networks of (urban) actors, it will also help me to understand how networks at different scales with various levels of authority (or power?) shape the overall outcome of transboundary water governance processes.

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Molle, F. (2008). Nirvana concepts, narratives and policy models: Insight from the water sector. Water Alternatives, 1(1), 131–156.

Nirvana concepts, narratives and models have all been used to propagate certain policies and decision-making in the water sector. Each of these ‘discursive objects’ are used to design policies and support particular agendas, for better or worse. In a nutshell, they are:
– Nirvana concepts: underpin overarching frameworks of analysis (might never be attained, but offer a goal; are value-based, and often described as common sense, which makes it difficult to refute)
– Narratives: causal and explanatory beliefs (floods and droughts are due to deforestation, which can be stemmed with conversation efforts)
– Models: Policies or development interventions (often are implemented without consideration for context, capacity, resources available – and ignore endogenous approaches by local actors)

IWRM has been used by the authors to illustrate three types of conceptual objects of policy-making in the water sector. IWRM has provided a framework under which various interlinked narratives and models have been accommodated (p. 150).

Throughout this article, IWRM has been deconstructed to illustrate how it, in many ways, represents each of these discursive objects, or has been propped up by the use of these discursive objects. This has been, so far, the most complete deconstruction of IWRM in the literature i’ve come across, which will act as a good baseline article for providing critiques of IWRM. For example, in the discussion on Nirvana Concepts, the authors give provide an example of how IWRM was enthusiastically adopted by governments of South Africa (and Zimbabwe) to equalize water use and access between whites and blacks, but after 10 years of experience, the expected benefits have not materialized in either country (133).

Politics is a pervasive trend for the use of models, nirvana concepts and narratives. Usually vested interests, ideologies, and money (individual bonuses all the way to promotion of development agendas by agencies) all play a critical role in why certain concepts in the water sector are promoted, or certain development trajectories are taken in development of national water sectors.

The article also looks at why certain concepts emerge, spread and influence policy; what incentives exist for this promotion and spreading; and, the role of ‘paradigm maintenance’ in protection of these dominant/hegemonic concepts.

The concept of ‘epistemic communities’ is discussed, which is what Conca (2006) describes as regime formation. Epistemic communities are defined in the article as “network of professionals with recognized expertise and competence in a particular domain and an authoritative claim to policy-relevant knowledge within that domain or issue-area; consists of academics, decision-makers, etc who share set of normative and principled beliefs, as well as causal beliefs and cause-and-effect understandings” (143).

Implications of these discursive objects on policy making concludes the article. Both the positive aspects of these three objects, as well as the negative outcomes, are provided in this section. I found the mention of ‘discourse analysis’ interesting, as a tool for understanding epistemic communities and where their interests come from, as well as for assessing whether the tool being applied, or the narrative being used is a good ‘fit’ for the context, and whether this has implications for achieving the stated goals.

Most certainly an interesting and useful article, especially when dominant discourses are applied without sensitivity to context or consideration of updating the knowledge or thought practices behind the dominant discourse. The article argues for deconstruction of discourse, strategic and thoughtful use and application of models, questioning of narratives, understanding of power asymmetries and dynamics between actors.

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Cohen, A., & Davidson, S. (2011). The watershed approach: challenges, antecedents, and the transition from technical tool to governance unit. Water Alternatives, 4(1), 1–14.

This article provides a very unique and interesting critique of the watershed governance approach. The authors argue that watersheds, as a governance tool, are often conflated with other governance tools, such as IWRM or ‘integration’. A number of challenges associated with the watersheds approach are identified, namely:
– Boundary Choice: which watershed boundary is most appropriate for purposes of governance or management; watershed boundaries are often incongruent with other natural system boundaries (i.e. ecosystems, airsheds); watershed boundary choices are often a political/social act as much as a scientific choice.
– Accountability: watersheds often not congruent with conventional electoral boundaries; accountability is correlated in the extent to which (the process) stakeholders and participants are involved in decision-making.
– Public participation and empowerment: re-scaling to watershed may fail to meet participation and empowerment expectations, nor is it inherent that re-scaling will achieve this.
– Asymmetry b/w watershed and problem-shed: asymmetry lies in the fact that watersheds impact- and are impacted by – factors outside of their boundaries; watersheds rarely encompass all of the physical, social, or economic factors impacting upon the area within its borders.
– Asymmetry b/w watersheds and policy-sheds: jurisdictional overlap (watershed vs conventional administrative scales); no single set of policies will ever wholly encompass the watershed

This article highlighted a number of important considerations when applying watershed governance as a tool. The authors argue that watersheds can be appropriate for governance, including: clearly defined watershed organizational mandates; powers and governance structures are clearly delineated; watershed organizations are properly resourced.

A point which I thought was fairly obviously incongruent with watershed scale was the setting of water quality guidelines. The authors argue that the watershed scale may be an appropriate scale in which to identify means for meeting these guidelines, but not for setting them. This goes to the issue of 1) resources – which watershed organizations have the human and scientific resources to effectively set water quality guidelines, and 2) enforcement – this goes to the same concern of resourcing.

The conflation with IWRM is also interesting, as these two tools share similar attributes. The authors are careful to note that ‘watersheds may be useful to include in IWRM in some cases, and in other cases, not’. Essentially, it is context specific about whether watersheds as the appropriate scale of governance should be a part of IWRM. It may work in some cases, where the conditions exist (i.e. clearly defined mandates, powers and governance structures clearly delineated, properly resourced).

IN some cases, where watershed organizations do not have these necessary pre-conditions for success, re-scaling to the watershed can do more damage than benefits. This is the big debate about re-scaling of governance, in general. Without the appropriate conditions (see above: i.e. resourcing, mandates), local governance is not always the more appropriate avenue to take. Capacity, knowledge, willingness, resources, are all important aspects to consider when assessing achievability of re-scaling exercises.

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