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Thinking about the Future of Global Water Governance

Joseph W. Dellapenna, Villanova University School of Law, Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA
Joyeeta Gupta, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Wenjing Li, Attorney, Beijing
Falk Schmidt, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany


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Global water problems are likely to increase in severity, rendering existing governance approaches unable to cope with the resulting problems. We inquire into the relationship between global water governance structures, particularly those involving the United Nations, and look at how those structures are likely to respond to and shape projected water futures. Building on story lines of possible water futures taken from existing scenarios, we discuss the functions to be performed by global water governance. We aim to open a discussion about four global water governance options and to introduce the constraints and possibilities for each option. We argue that the nature of the water problem calls for structural changes. However unfeasible these may appear today, such transitions do occur, and, if the narrative is sufficiently sound, it can be used by social movements and networks to mobilize policy entrepreneurs and directional leaders to work for such changes.

Key words

framework treaties; global organization; markets; regulatory options; water governance

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work 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