UNESCO-IHE’s research programme on water management and governance ultimately investigates how water management decisions are made, determining where water flows, for what purpose, and at what cost (ecological, social, economic).
The research programme on water management and governance centres on the conviction that in order to fully understand how decisions are made, where water flows and under what conditions it is necessary to study the intrinsic linkages between the social, biophysical and technological processes of water systems.
Only by understanding these processes and their interwoveness can we fully understand the complexity of water systems and develop innovative ways of governing and managing water in sustainable ways.
Shifting state-society relationship
Over the past decade the terms ‘water governance’ and ‘water management’ have entered into the standard vocabulary of professionals and academics engaged with the water sector. Although these terms have been subject to many different definitions and uses, their usage is not without meaning. The term highlights a shifting state-society relationship in which the state has altered its responsibilities and/or activities related to water management and water services provision.
Non-state actors, be they private sector actors or non-governmental organizations, have became more prominent in managing water, allocating resources and organizing service provision. Linked to the increased diversity of actors involved is a strong emphasis on the processes through which this involvement is channeled and, ultimately the water management decisions made, determining where water flows, for what purpose, and at what cost (ecological, social, economic).
The research programme on water management and governance employs different methodological approaches. In particular, two broad approaches can be distinguished. The first approach concerns a more instruments-oriented approach targeted at moving towards governance and management arrangements and processes which seek to enhance efficiency, equity and effectiveness of water management (good governance). In this perspective governance and management is understood as a tool or application that needs to be designed and tailored to produce specified desired outcomes.
The second approach employs the terms governance and management in analyzing contested decision-making processes, the ensuing allocation of resources and services and the impacts of such decisions on access to resources and services of different actors. This approach critically analyzes governance processes, and the degree to which prevailing processes result in equitable access to resources and services for different actors.
The research programme on water management and governance is particularly well-placed as its position within the institute allows for easy linkages with natural and engineering sciences. This allows for close collaboration with academics working on bio-physical and technological processes within the institute.