Actionable Science in Transboundary River Basins

Projects PIs

Andrea K. Gerlak, Associate Professor
University of Arizona, School of Geography and Development and Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy

Anita Milman, Associate Professor
University of Massachusetts, Department of Environmental Conservation

Project background

Around the world, intensifying demands for water resources, changes in the hydro-climatic cycle, and degrading water quality pose threats to human and ecosystems. These risks are particularly of concern in transboundary river basins, where coordination across international political boundaries adds complexity to already challenging governance issues. The effective production of scientific knowledge and incorporation of that knowledge into decision-making will be a critical factor influencing how such water-related risks are mitigated, as decision-makers respond to potential impacts and externalities that span sovereign countries.

Project objectives

This pursuit will identify promising pathways by which science is developed and informs policy in transboundary basins. Using a multi-stage approach, we will harness the expertise of an interdisciplinary group of practitioners, policymakers, and academics who work in transboundary river basins and have been producers and/or users of knowledge and information in order to:

  • delineate the scope of the science produced
  • depict the formal institutional mechanisms for incorporating science into decision-making
  • identify example pathways for the use of science in transboundary water governance

We begin with a focus on three well-institutionalized transboundary water governance institutions spanning three continents: the International Joint Commission (North America), the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube (Europe), and the Mekong River Commission (Asia).

Results from this synthesis will inform understandings of the science-policy interface in transboundary rivers and will provide lessons about actionable science for policy-makers to draw upon as they consider how to best develop and enable incorporation of science into decision-making.

Project members

Mark Colosimo serves as engineering advisor to its U.S. Section of the IJC. Previously, Mark worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he managed clean water programs and initiatives. He has also worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in Baltimore District and with the Civil Works Planning and Policy Division at the national headquarters office. He is a registered professional wetland scientist.

Ken Conca is a professor in the School of International Service at American University.He is the author of Governing Water, one of the most-referenced publications on global water politics. With An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance (Oxford University Press, 2015), Conca examines the role of UN in environmental governance, including water issues. Most recently, he is the editor, with Erika Weinthal, of the Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2018). He serves as a member of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Expert Advisory Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding, and was recently a visiting scholar at SESYNC.

Gabriel Eckstein is a professor in the School of Law at Texas A&M University. He has served as an expert advisor and consultant for various governments, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other groups on U.S. and international environmental and water law issues. He directs the International Water Law Project, which catalogs and provides resources on international agreements, case law, and transboundary water institutions, and serves on the Executive Committee of the International Association for Water Law. Most recently, he chaired the International Scientific Committee for the International Water Resources Association’s XVI World Water Congress.

Anoulak Kittikhoun is the Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer and former Team Leader of the Basin Development Plan Programme 2012-2015 at the Mekong River Commission, where he led the formulation of the new Basin Development Strategy, the MRC Strategic Plan and various organizational reforms. He was previously a staff member of the United Nations Secretariat in New York, serving in the Department of Political Affairs. A political scientist by training, Anoulak has a Bachelor degree from the Australian National University and a Masters and PhD from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. He has published in edited books and peer-reviewed journals including International Studies Review and Theory and Society, and a forthcoming article in the Journal of Hydrology.

Peter Kovács is the Head of Department of the River Basin Management and Water Protection of the Ministry of Interior of Hungary. He graduated as a civil engineer and started his professional carrier at a regional water directorate/environmental authority as a staff engineer. He has worked for different ministries since 1997, in different positions, responsible for implementation of the Water Framework Directive and water quality management. Presently, he is also head of the Hungarian delegation to the ICDPR, acting EU Water Director, and chair of the UN ECE Water Convention for 2016-2018. He also serves as an alternate-governor in the board of governors for the World Water Council. Mr. Kovács held the role of State Secretary for Water in the Ministry of Rural Development between 2012-13, was nominated plenipotentiary for six bi-lateral transboundary water commissions (still in charge), and has occupied a number of other positions in Hungarian ministries responsible for water management.

Daniel Mcfarlane is an Assistant Professor of Environment and Sustainability at Western Michigan University. He is an environmental historian who specializes in interdisciplinary freshwater environmental policy and sustainability issues, particularly the transnational aspects of Canadian-American border waters and environmental relations in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin. He is the author of Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway (UBC Press, 2014) and co-editor of Border Flows: A Century of the Canadian-American Water Relationship (University of Calgary Press, 2016).

Rich Moy is a U.S. Commissioner for the International Joint Commission (IJC). Prior to joining the IJC, Moy worked extensively with Montana State Agencies, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Canadian federal government and the IJC on water quality, fishery, wildlife, apportionment and landscape issues. He also directed Montana’s High Plains Research Experiment Station and worked as an ecologist for the U.S. National Park Service.

Alberto Pistocchi is a Scientific Project Officer with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. As part of his position with the EC, he works in support to the EU strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) and on the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive, addressing several aspects that are transboundary in nature.He is an expert in hydrologic modeling, hydrogeology, and environmental chemistry.

Susanne Schmeier is the Coordinator for Transboundary Water Management at Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), where she coordinates GIZ’s work in 20 different river and lake basins in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.She is the author ofGoverning International Watercourses: River Basin Organizations and the Sustainable Governance of Internationally Shared Rivers and Lakes (Routledge, 2013). She has worked with a number of River Basin Organizations, including the Mekong River Commission for which she served as an advisor for institutional reforms and sustainable hydropower for 3 years.

John Shurts serves as General Council with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, an interstate agency formed by the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Under the Northwest Power Act of 1980, the Council develops a regional electrical power plan for the Pacific Northwest and a fish and wildlife protection and mitigation program for the Columbia River Basin, plans and programs largely implemented by agencies of the federal government. He regularly briefs delegations and study tours from different parts of the world on Columbia River and U.S. water, energy, fish, and wildlife and Columbia River Treaty issues. Recent writings on the Columbia include a long introduction to the Columbia River Treaty, “Rethinking the Columbia River Treaty,” for the book of collected essays The Columbia River Treaty Revisited (OSU Press, 2012). From 2011-16, he was also a special adviser to the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, advising on how to develop water quality standards and a governance and implementation strategy for ensuring water quality in a large transboundary river.

Ivan Zavadsky is the Executive
Secretary of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube. Prior to joining the ICPDR, Zavadsky worked for the GEF Secretariat as International Waters Focal Area coordinator, prior to that for the UNDP/GEF Danube/Black Sea Regional Programme and the UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project. He also served as Director General at the Ministry of Environment of Slovakia. Zavadsky has represented Czechoslovak and Slovak governments on a number of international bodies or organisations, including the ICPDR, the Environmental Policy Committee of the OECD, the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy, among others.

Workshop #1

Held November 8-10, 2017 in Annapolis, Maryland


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