Modes and Approaches of Groundwater Governance: A Survey of Lessons Learned from Selected Cases across the Globe


The crucial role of groundwater and the centrality of water governance in accommodating growing water demands sustainably are becoming well recognized. We review 10 case studies of groundwater governance—representing diverse global regions and local contexts—from the perspective of four well-established elements: (1) institutional setting; (2) availability and access to information and science; (3) robustness of civil society; and (4) economic and regulatory frameworks. For institutional setting, we find that governing is often a thankless task that paradoxically requires popularity; legislation does not always translate to implementation; conflict resolution is central to governance; and funding is critical for governance. In terms of information access, we see: a need for research for natural systems, social systems, and institutions; trust as an essential element in research; and that urbanized landscapes are critical components of groundwater governance. Looking at civil society robustness, we observe that equity is an essential element for governance; community-based governance requires intention; and leaders can play a powerful role in uniting stakeholders. As for frameworks, the cases suggest that economic incentives sometimes yield unintended results; “indirect” management should be used cautiously; and economic incentives’ effectiveness depends on the system employed. Collectively, the lessons speak to the need for shared governance capacities on the part of governments at multiple levels and civil society actors.



Modes, approaches, and lessons learned: A survey of selected cases of groundwater governance across the globe. 2016. Varady, RG, AA Zuniga-Teran, AK Gerlak, and SB Megdal. In special issue, “Water Governance, Stakeholder Engagement, and Sustainable Water Resources Management,” ed. by S Megdal, S Eden, and E Shamir. Water 8, 417: 24pp. doi:10.3390/w8100417.