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E&S Home > Vol. 23, Iss. 4 > Art. 43 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Comparative studies of water governance: a systematic review

Gül Özerol, University of Twente, The Netherlands
Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Twente, The Netherlands
Marie Claire Brisbois, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University; Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex
Cesar Casiano Flores, Public Governance Institute, KU Leuven, Belgium
Pranjal Deekshit, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
Corentin Girard, Foundation Valencia Climate and Energy of the City of Valencia, Spain
Christian Knieper, Institute of Environmental Systems Research, Osnabrück University, Germany
S. Jalal Mirnezami, Research Institute of Science, Technology and Industry Policy, Sharif University of Technology
Mar Ortega-Reig, Centro Valenciano de Estudios sobre el Riego, Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain; Institut de Desenvolupament Local, Universitat de València, Spain
Pranay Ranjan, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, USA
Nadine J. S. Schröder, Research Group Governance, Participation and Sustainability, Leuphana University, Germany
Barbara Schröter, Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Germany


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Governance is key to tackling water challenges and transforming water management under the increasing pressures of competing water uses and climate change. Diverse water governance regimes have evolved in different countries and regions to regulate the development and management of water resources and the provision of water services. Scholars and policy analysts have been comparing these water governance regimes to analyze elements and processes, to assess performance, or to draw lessons. Although the number of such studies has increased since the 1980s, no comprehensive synthesis exists. We present such a synthesis by conducting a systematic review of the emerging field of comparative water governance studies, and we critically reflect on how water governance is defined, conceptualized, and assessed in different contexts. Based on the resultant insights, we identify four areas for future research: (1) improving the balance between small-, medium-, and large-N studies that are used in comparative studies of water governance; (2) conducting longitudinal comparisons of water governance to identify temporal governance trends and patterns; (3) expanding the geographical coverage of the comparisons to include underrepresented countries and regions, focusing more broadly on the global South; and (4) addressing the issues of justice, equity, and power, which are becoming increasingly important in tackling the water governance challenges that are exacerbated by the effects of climate change, industrialization, and urbanization.

Key words

comparative analysis; comparative studies; systematic review; water governance; water management; water policy

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087