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Water governance in a comparative perspective: From IWRM to a 'nexus' approach?

David Benson
The Environment and Sustainability Institute and Department of Politics, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Cornwall, UK; d.i.benson@exeter.ac.uk

Animesh K. Gain
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section Hydrology, Potsdam, Germany; animesh@gfz-potsdam.de

Josselin J. Rouillard
Ecologic Institute, Berlin, Germany; josselin.rouillard@ecologic.eu

ABSTRACT: Nexus thinking, in the form of integrating water security with agriculture, energy and climate concerns, is normatively argued to help better transition societies towards greener economies and the wider goal of sustainable development. Yet several issues emerge from the current debate surrounding this concept, namely the extent to which such conceptualisations are genuinely novel, whether they complement (or are replacing) existing environmental governance approaches and how – if deemed normatively desirable – the nexus can be enhanced in national contexts. This paper therefore reviews the burgeoning nexus literature to determine some common indicative criteria before examining its implementation in practice vis-à-vis more established integrated water resources management (IWRM) models. Evidence from two divergent national contexts, the UK and Bangladesh, suggests that the nexus has not usurped IWRM, while integration between water, energy, climate and agricultural policy objectives is generally limited. Scope for greater merging of nexus thinking within IWRM is then discussed.

KEYWORDS: Nexus, integrated water resources management (IWRM), water governance, energy, agriculture