Transboundary hydro-governance: from conflict to shared management (Ganoulis and Fried, 2018)

Jeroen Warner

tbGanoulis, J. and Fried, J. 2018. Transboundary hydro-governance: from conflict to shared management. Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-78625-4, 217 p., €197.


Jeroen Warner

Social Sciences Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands;


To cite this Review: Warner, J. 2020. Review of "Transboundary hydro-governance: from conflict to shared management". Springer, 2018, by Jacques Ganoulis and Jean Fried, Water Alternatives,


Having taught transboundary water to university students from many cultural and disciplinary backgrounds for over a decade now, I was hoping for a textbook that would cover the key bases.

There is still no widely used water governance textbook; Ken Conca´s 2006 Water Governance book on the history of the World Commission on Dams was a landmark study, but not a textbook. Even less is available on transboundary water governance. Earle, Jàgerskog and Ojendal´s commendable edited volume on transboundary water management (2010) is probably the book that provides the next best option, but management is not governance, defined here in this text as "the art of coordinating [authorities] in order to ensure 'water security' at all levels".

I therefore picked up Ganoulis and Fried´s book with some anticipation. At first glance, this looks like the real deal – it's highly methodical and touches on both natural science and social science aspects of transboundary water. Many concepts are defined and each chapter has its own set of bibliographic references and theme so that it also works individually.

Following up on Ganoulis’ 1996 volume Transboundary Water Resources Management Institutional and Engineering Approaches (with Duckstein, Literathy and Bogardi) and more recent work on groundwater governance, the book is firmly grounded in the IWRM paradigm Jacques Ganoulis has worked on for some 35 years. In fact the 'resource' focus has largely remained, meaning the sociocultural and political values of (transboundary) water takes a backseat. In this book, water is only material H2O: virtual (encapsulated) water does not feature, nor does the water-energy-food Nexus; I saw no use of International Relations theory and no application of the currently voguish mixes of the hydrological and the social to transboundary water conflict: neither 'socio-hydrology', which the IAHS has made the cornerstone of its ongoing Decade, nor the 'hydro-social' work by political ecologists such as Boelens and Vos or Swyngedouw. Also, but for one exception, the authors have sadly ignored the body of work appearing since 2008 in Water Alternatives. In more than one sense, this textbook could have been written 20 years ago.

There are some pretty interesting 21st century discussions here nonetheless. The European Water Framework Directive has a curious and probably unique macro-regional water governance structure to evaluate performance – the authors call this 'inter-calibration' – to assess good ecological quality through mutual adjustment of standards (Page and Maria Kaika’s (2003) work would have been relevant here).

It also touches on the emerging field of hydrodiplomacy. What to do about transboundary water conflicts? The volume´s subtitle points a direct arrow from conflict to cooperation and shared management. The book is clearly partial to harmonious plus-sum solutions like Sadoff and Grey´s 'benefit sharing' (based on game theory and welfare economics) and Islam and Susskind´s 'mutual gains' (based on law, cost-benefit calculations and the Habermasian 'best argument'). For influential hydrodiplomacy authors Islam and Susskind, complexity is unwelcome, as it brings higher transaction costs. Ganoulis and Fried, on the other hand, do accept the real-life complexity coming from 'hybrid actors' referring to hydropolitics writings like those of Zeitoun/Warner (2006) and Hensengerth/Zawahri (2012) to explain 'hybrids'- mixes of state and non-state. Given this engagement with hydropolitical literature, it would have been relevant to note that in 2007 Mirumachi and Allan influentially posited that conflict and cooperation may be simultaneous, which led to the development of the TWINS  (Transboundary Waters Interaction NexuS) model. A language edit would also have been useful.

These quibbles aside, it is a thorough, well-structured book that will be of interest to BSc students and practitioners with an environmental science or management background. Readers of this journal in search of 'alternatives' will need to wait a bit more.



Conca, K. 2006.  Governing Water: Contentious Transnational Politics and Global Institution Building. MIT Press.

Earle, A; Jägerskog, A.; Öjendal, J. 2010. Transboundary Water Management: Principles and Practice. Routledge.

Ganoulis, J.; Duckstein, L.; Literathy, P. ; Bogardi, J. 1996. Transboundary Water Resources Management Institutional and Engineering Approaches. Springer.

Islam, S., & Susskind, L.E. 2012. Water diplomacy: A negotiated approach to managing complex water networks. Routledge.

Kaika, M., & Page, B. (2003). The EU Water Framework Directive: Part 1. European policy‐making and the changing topography of lobbying. European Environment 13(6), 314-327.

Mirumachi, N.; Allan, T.  2007.  Revisiting transboundary Water Governance: Power, Conflict, Cooperation and the Political Economy. Proceedings from CAIWA International Conference on Adaptive and Integrated Water Management: Coping with Scarcity. Basel, Switzerland, 12–15 November 2007.

Zeitoun, M., & Warner, J. 2006. Hydro-hegemony–a framework for analysis of trans-boundary water conflicts. Water Policy 8(5), 435-460.

Zawahri, N. A., & Hensengerth, O. (2012). Domestic environmental activists and the governance of the Ganges and Mekong Rivers in India and China. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 12(3), 269-298.


Additional Info

  • Author(s): Jacques Ganoulis and Jean Fried
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Publisher: Springer
  • Subject: Water governance, Transboundary waters
  • Type: Review
  • Review author: Jeroen Warner
  • Language: English