Folder Issue 3





An assessment of scale-sensitivity in policy design and implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive within the context of the Danube Basin

Tahira Syed
Tufts University, Medford, Boston, USA;

Enamul Choudhury
School of Public and International Affairs, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, USA;

Shafiqul Islam
Water Diplomacy Program, Tufts University, Medford, Boston, USA;

ABSTRACT: Scales and boundaries are integral components of environmental governance policies. These scales and boundaries – administrative, political or institutional – usually do not align with biophysical scales. For effective environmental governance, a key policy question is which scale to use when. This question, however, is often ignored due to the unavailability of the tools and data necessary for incorporating scale issues into policy design and implementation. In this paper, we introduce the concept of scale–descale–rescale (SDR) as a tool for policy analysis. 'scale' refers to the current scale of a policy; 'descale' refers to levels of scale that are higher and lower than the current scale; 'rescale' refers to the process of bringing all three scales together in order to examine their interactive impact. In this paper, we present an examination of the framing and implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in the Danube River Basin; we find that the current scale of the WFD design is at the river basin level while, at the same time, its implementation is expected to be carried out at the national and sub-river basin levels. To fully understand the efficacy of the WFD as a policy instrument, we first use the SDR tool to descale the design and implementation of the WFD at five scales: multinational, national, subnational, river basin and sub-river basin; we then rescale them in order to observe the overall impact. We find that in the Danube River Basin an interconnected web of scale issues is impacting and often obstructing effective implementation of the WFD.

KEYWORDS: Scale, multilevel governance, WFD, complexity, Danube River Basin




Cooperation, fragmentation and control: News media representations of changing water access from Austin to the Texas rice belt

Brendan L. Lavy
Department of Environmental Sciences, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX, USA;

ABSTRACT: The waters of the Lower Colorado River Valley of Texas have sustained urban populations and agricultural operations for over a century. More recently, however, rapid urban growth, continued economic development, and a changing climate have led to the prioritisation of urban over agricultural water uses. This research analyses public discourse found in newspaper coverage of water-related issues to understand how media represents two decades of change in the control of water resources along an urban-to-agricultural gradient. It documents the changing relationship between long-established commercial agricultural water users and the increasing water demands of one of North Americaʼs fastest growing urban areas and identifies the discourses and counter-discourses that are used by urban and agricultural interests to constrain or enable access to the basinʼs water resources. Findings indicate that the water-related discourse has evolved through distinct periods of cooperation, fragmentation and control. These periods are defined by the mechanisms that urban and agricultural interests have used to constrain or enable water access. Themes identified suggest that urban interests have increasingly expanded their influence in decisions related to water distribution and that they have done so by forming strategic alliances with the regional water authority and by leveraging the power of local and state officials in water matters. Agricultural interests have, in the meantime, struggled to maintain access to their historic share of water despite forming new social ties with environmental organisations and despite outlining the importance of water to the local economy.

KEYWORDS: Water resources, allocation, access, media, discourse analysis, Texas





Eutrophication and water quality policy discourse in the Lake Erie Basin

Bereket N. Isaac
School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability (SERS), University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada;

Rob de Loë
School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability (SERS), University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Watershed-based approaches to addressing water quality issues often involve a diverse set of actors working collaboratively to develop policy. Such an approach is currently underway in the Western Lake Erie Basin, where the province of Ontario and the state of Ohio have embarked on a 40% phosphorus run-off reduction target to address eutrophication problems in the lake. In this study, we adopt the concept of discourse to inform our understanding of the collaborative process undertaken to develop domestic action plans (DAPs) to guide efforts by various stakeholders. We find that in both cases there were distinct groups of actors who shared and promoted a particular narrative or storyline. These storylines provided varying accounts of the science and policy aspects of the eutrophication problem in Lake Erie, and there was variation as well in the specific actors to whom they attributed responsibility. We illustrate how the storylines shaped the nature and form of the action plans. We provide a discussion of the policy implications of unequal capacities among different actor coalitions to influence trajectories and outcomes in the context of governance for water quality. It is shown that the potential of discourse coalitions to influence policy raises important questions as to whose voice is considered legitimate enough to be included in the policy process.

KEYWORDS: Lake Erie, eutrophication, water policy, discourse analysis, storylines, Canada, USA


Interdisciplinary research in Rajasthan, India: Exploring the role of culture and art to support rural development and water management

Michael Buser
University of the West of England, Centre for Sustainable Environments and Planning, Bristol, UK;

Loraine Leeson
University of Middlesex, Department of Fine Arts, UK;

M.S. Rathore
Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEDSJ), Jaipur, India;

Anurupa Roy
The Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust, New Delhi, India;

Nina Sabnani
Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay, Mumbai, India;

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the role of art and culture in supporting rural development in the context of critical water challenges. It focuses on an interdisciplinary network and research programme conducted in 2018 with the village of Jhakhoda, in Rajasthan, India. The village has experienced years of declining water quality and has recently turned to rainwater harvesting and other conservation measures as a means to address water challenges. The research team sought to support local NGO and village efforts through creative, regionally specific forms of cultural activity. Through our project, we found that arts approaches can contribute to changes in the way people understand water and environmental challenges and can play a significant role in working towards sustainable water futures.

KEYWORDS: Water, interdisciplinarity, art, puppetry, mural, Phad painting, Rajasthan, India


Addressing failed water infrastructure delivery through increased accountability and end-user agency: The case of the Sekhukhune District, South Africa

Moritz Hofstetter
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Pretoria, South Africa (at the time of research), and Water Resources Management group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands;

Alex Bolding
Water Resources Management group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands;

Barbara van Koppen
Poverty, Gender and Water, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Pretoria, South Africa;

ABSTRACT: Despite progressive policies and a legal framework that includes the constitutional right to sufficient water, there are still enormous problems with water service delivery in low income rural South Africa. To understand the factors responsible for the observed discrepancy between ambitious policies and disappointing water service delivery, we undertook an analysis of the implementation of these policies in Sekhukhune District, South Africa; we scrutinised the public service water delivery in that district using an actor-oriented approach. We found that during the four phases of public water services delivery – identification, planning, construction and operation – practices often deviated from the stipulated policies; we also found that accountability relations between service delivery agencies and end users were undermined by gatekeeping and patronage. We argue that there is no need for major policy changes; we concluded from our research that by mobilising mechanisms that are based on existing policies, accountability relations can be strengthened and service delivery improved. We describe an experimental approach which focuses on budget transparency and end-user-driven development; it is an approach which aims at strengthening the agency of end users while limiting possibilities for rent-seeking and gatekeeping by councillors and contractors.

KEYWORDS: Rural water service delivery, accountability, end-user agency, patronage, South Africa


The Role of the Water Framework Directive in the controversial transition of water policy paradigms in Spain and Portugal

Julia Martínez-Fernández
Universidad de Murcia, Spain; and Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua, Zaragoza, Spain;

Susana Neto
CERIS – Civil Engineering Research and Innovation for Sustainability, Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Georesources, University of Lisbon, Portugal; susana.neto@tecnico.ulisboa pt

Nuria Hernández-Mora
Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua, Spain;

Leandro del Moral
Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua and Department of Human Geography, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain;

Francesc La Roca
Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua, Spain;

ABSTRACT: The process of drafting, approving and implementing the Water Framework Directive (WFD) has played a pivotal role in the water-related political agenda of the Iberian Peninsula. The WFD has provided an institutional impetus for a shift from the dominant hydraulic paradigm towards a new water governance approach. The new approach, known as the New Water Culture (NWC), predated the WFD. It was initiated in Spain and Portugal in the 1990s and has been promoted by a coalition of academics, social activists, and water managers. Given the long tradition and relevance of water debates in Spain and Portugal, the sociopolitical and territorial conflicts surrounding the implementation of the new regulatory framework are of particular significance. Legal debates about the (in)correct transposition of the WFD into Spanish and Portuguese legislation are still unresolved. Legal debates about the (in)correct transposition of the WFD into Spanish and Portuguese legislation are still unresolved. Controversies focus on issues such as the use of economic instruments, for instance cost recovery and the use of public subsidies (a key component of the hydraulic paradigm), as well as the role of public participation in decision making processes. Significant resistance has been mounted by the traditional water policy community, which continues to dominate power structures surrounding water. Throughout the long WFD implementation process, conflicting views and interests have consistently emerged with regard to the diagnosis and identification of existing pressures and the definition, evaluation and implementation of the proposed measures. Controversies have also emerged around the extensive use of exceptions which has allowed the hydraulic paradigm to persist over time. Progress towards the promised governance model, however, is taking place, with significant improvements in transparency, more accurate knowledge regarding the aquatic ecosystems services and the inclusion in water management agencies of more diverse experts including social scientists, biologists and geologists. This paper looks at the role the WFD implementation process is playing in the struggle for the transformation of water policy in Spain and Portugal. It examines this through the lens of the NWC movement.

KEYWORDS: WFD implementation, New Water Culture, Spain, Portugal, water governance, controversial transition


Three faces of the European Union Water Initiative: Promoting the Water Framework Directive or sustainable development?

Oliver Fritsch
Environmental and Conservation Sciences & Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia;

David Benson
Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, United Kingdom;

Camilla Adelle
Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa;

Audrey Massot
Environmental and Conservation Sciences, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia;

ABSTRACT: The Water Framework Directive (WFD) not only recast water management practices within the European Union (EU); it also opened a new chapter for the EU’s external ambitions in the field of water. The central vehicle here is the EU Water Initiative (EUWI), a transnational, multi-actor partnership approach that was established in 2002 to support wider United Nations development goals. The EUWI is underpinned by principles such as river basin planning, resource efficiency, and participation, and the WFD serves as a legal and political template for achieving these aims in interested partner countries. This article analyses the implementation of the Initiative in all five partnerships: Africa, China, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, Latin America, and the Mediterranean; it argues that the Initiative’s origins in sustainable development related global debates led to selective interpretations of water management principles in these diverse social, political and ecological contexts. In short, these five partnerships emphasise different aspects of the three pillars of sustainable development, and their respective interpretations result in the different WFD variants outside of Europe. These patterns, we argue, not only reflect contextual differences but also strategic EU and member state foreign policy imperatives that have influenced how the WFD has been promoted globally.

KEYWORDS: Water Framework Directive, European Union Water Initiative, integrated water resources management, sustainable development


Development and implementation of the concept of disproportionate costs in water management in Central Europe in the light of the EU WFD

Jan Macháč
Faculty of Social and Economic Studies, J.E. Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic;

Jan Brabec
Faculty of Humanities, Charles University, Prague 5, Czech Republic; and Faculty of Social and Economic Studies, J.E. Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic;

Ondřej Vojáček
Faculty of Social and Economic Studies, J.E. Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic;

ABSTRACT: Many Central European water bodies that failed to achieve the good ecological and chemical status required by the Water Framework Directive in the first management cycle are expected to again fail in the second cycle. An exemption from achieving good status may be applied for under certain circumstances but must be justified. One option is to show that achieving good status is not cost proportionate, but no uniform methodology for assessing proportionality exists in the EU. The paper maps the existing approaches to this type of justification in the Central European countries. The methods used to justify exemptions differ significantly among the countries. A large majority of reports mention monetary cost–benefit analysis, although a range of other methods such as distribution of costs, affordability and criterial cost–benefit analysis are also utilised. The findings show that countries that have experience with proportionality assessment from the first management cycle or have created clear and easy-to-use methodologies (or none) are more likely to justify the exemption by citing disproportionate costs; on the other hand, a higher complexity of methodology – such as used in the Czech Republic – creates incentives to avoid using the disproportionate-cost justification and to instead utilise other available types of justification.

KEYWORDS: Water Framework Directive, good status, exemption, cost proportionality, Central Europe, justification





Between regulation and targeted expropriation: Rural-to-urban groundwater reallocation in Jordan

Timothy Liptrot
Department of Government, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA;

Hussam Hussein
Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK;

ABSTRACT: In response to rising urban water demand, some regions have reallocated water from irrigation to more valuable uses. Groundwater over-exploitation, however, continues to degrade aquifer quality, and states rarely succeed at stopping overuse. This study asks whether growing urban requirements enable the reallocation of groundwater from irrigation to higher value added uses in domestic and industrial consumption. The paper is based on a series of interviews with policy makers and academics in Jordan, combined with data from remote sensing analysis. The results find that regulatory measures such as tariffs and well licensing have a limited impact on agricultural water use when opposed by a broad coalition of interest groups; instead, a targeted expropriation n a single small area, combined with an expansion of supply, did succeed in reallocating 35 million cubic metres of groundwater. The results suggest that urban water needs do increase state interest in reallocation. That reallocation was successful in only one of the attempted basins suggests that donor-region resistance is a major factor in reallocation outcomes. We discuss the strategy of, for future reallocators, targeting only aquifers with low political and enforcement costs.

KEYWORDS: Groundwater management, water reallocation, water policy, water management, urbanisation, Jordan




Under the historian’s radar: Local water supply practices in Nairobi, 1940-1980

Jethron Ayumbah Akallah
Department of History and Archaeology, Maseno University, Maseno, Kenya;

Mikael Hård
Department of History, Technical University of Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt), Darmstadt, Germany;

ABSTRACT: By presenting oral history material from two informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, the article illustrates how inhabitants during the period 1940 to 1980 acquired and used water on a daily basis. The authors’ observations challenge established paradigms in the history of technology as well as Science and Technology Studies (STS), most notably the Large Technological System (LTS) model. To understand the realities of the supply situation in cities in both the Global North and Global South, we must look beyond such systems; historians must complement material from official archives, utilities, ministries and other authorities with further sources. Interviews with urban inhabitants can help us to modify standard LTS perspectives, and the experiences of ordinary citizens can enable us to develop an alternative view of 'urban resilience' as a concept. Rather than passively being supplied with the necessities of daily life by public or private providers, inhabitants themselves successfully acquired those necessities. Interviews indicate that, compared to customers with access to the centralised water system, so-called slum dwellers exhibited a relatively high level of resilience in terms of water provision.

KEYWORDS: Water provision, large technological system, history of technology, Nairobi, urban resilience



Bright spots for local WFD implementation through collaboration with nature conservation authorities?

Nadine Jenny Shirin Schröder
Research Group Governance and Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany;

Jens Newig
Research Group Governance and Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany;

Nigel Watson
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom;

ABSTRACT: Twenty years after the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force, much remains to be done by member states in order to achieve the Directive’s ambitious aims. In Germany, far fewer measures have been realised or even planned that are needed for the achievement of WFD goals. There are, however, a number of local cases across the country where WFD measures are being realised. A key question can thus be asked as to what are the key characteristics of WFD processes and arrangements in those 'bright spots'? In order to answer this question, we investigated pathways of local WFD implementation in six federal states of Germany; we used data from semi-structured interviews with WFD-related actors at all administrative levels; we also used participatory observation as well as analyses of policy documents and official websites. Our cases are local-level actors realising measures related to hydromorphology and connectivity. Although local actors face common barriers, some have progressed with implementation of WFD measures while others have not. We found that our bright spots of WFD implementation are characterised by the presence of highly dedicated individuals and, often, collaboration between the WFD and nature conservation authorities, although we found the relationship between the two actors was ambivalent. Such collaboration provided those realising WFD measures with access to the instruments of nature conservation law. Although the WFD prescribes sectoral integration, such cooperation did not evolve everywhere; among our cases, collaborating actors showed low independence, meaning no or only few alternative means to cope with implementation barriers, and physical proximity between WFD actors and nature conservation authorities. Finally, we explored the opportunities for, and constraints on, transferring this collaborative approach to other situations where WFD implementation continues to stagnate.

KEYWORDS: Water Framework Directive implementation, nature conservation, water governance, cooperation, polycentricity, Germany


Going 'off script': The influence of instrument constituencies on the Europeanisation of Turkish water policy

Burçin Demirbilek
Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Çankırı Karatekin University, Çankırı, Turkey;

Oscar Fitch-Roy
Centre for Geography and Environmental Science and Centre for European Governance, University of Exeter, UK;

David Benson
Environment and Sustainability Institute and the Department of Politics, University of Exeter, UK;

Jenny Fairbrass
Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia, UK;

ABSTRACT: The European Union (EU) has established a major role in directing policy change both internally and beyond its borders, a phenomenon known as Europeanisation. This article examines the Europeanisation of water policy in Turkey in relation to implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). Although some principles of EU water policy have been adopted in Turkey, the WFD has also been subject to significant domestic modification, prompting questions about how and why such patterns of partial implementation occur. In this respect, learning and socialisation within transnational 'instrument constituencies' (ICs) is shown to be an important explanatory factor. It follows that diffusion of EU water policy and the WFD beyond its borders may be enhanced by promoting the capacity for instrument constituency learning – or the 'cognitive environment' – in non-EU countries.

KEYWORDS: Water Framework Directive, instrument constituencies, policy diffusion, social learning, Europeanisation, Turkey





The theory and practice of water pricing and cost recovery in the Water Framework Directive

Julio Berbel
Water, Environmental and Agricultural Resources Economics (WEARE); and Universidad de Córdoba, Spain;

Alfonso Expósito
Water, Environmental and Agricultural Resources Economics (WEARE); and Universidad de Málaga, Spain;

ABSTRACT: Article 9 of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires member states to take account not only of the principle of cost recovery of water services, including environmental and resource costs (ERCs), but also of the use of water pricing as an environmental policy instrument; nevertheless, no common methodology exists for the estimation of financial costs, nor is there a practical definition of ERC. The review of public evidence and scientific research regarding the effect of pricing on demand shows the limitations of water pricing and the need to integrate pricing and non-pricing instruments. Cost recovery remains a convenient policy for the financing of existing and future water infrastructures. This study offers a brief discussion on the theory and practice of pricing in Article 9 of the WFD and proposes the adoption of a more realistic approach to the implementation of cost recovery, one which abandons the unrealistic objective of monetisation of ERCs and proposes alternatives to the current emphasis on water pricing as a component of water resources management.

KEYWORDS: Water Framework Directive, cost recovery, water pricing, affordability, environmental and resource costs


'Praying for rain': A case of drought mismanagement in Barcelona (2007-2008)

Alvar Closas
International Consultant, Canberra, Australia;

ABSTRACT: Focusing on the severe drought suffered by the city of Barcelona, Spain, in 2007 and 2008, the aim of this paper is twofold. First, it examines the panoply of emergency measures that were enacted as responses to the drought; second, it contextualises the event within the wider political context of water scarcity and resource management in Catalonia. An examination of this drought is used to reveal structural deficiencies in water management policies. By combining the concepts of path dependency and the 'hydraulic mission', this paper situates drought management in Barcelona along the traditionalist continuum of supply-side technology-focused water management solutions in Spain. Fraught with contradictory policies, political bickering and partisan alliances, drought management in Barcelona becomes subject to party agendas and dependent on technological fixes; this undermines the possibility of establishing effective and adaptive drought management plans for the future.

KEYWORDS: Drought, hydraulic mission, path dependency, water politics, Barcelona, Spain


The EU Water Framework Directive twenty years on: Introducing the Special Issue

Timothy Moss
Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys), Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany;

Gabrielle Bouleau
Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Sciences Innovations Société (LISIS), UGE, CNRS, INRAE, Marne-la-Vallée, France;

José Albiac
Agrifood Research and Technology Center (CITA-DGA) and IA2, Zaragoza, Spain;

Lenka Slavíkova
Faculty of Social and Economic Studies, J. E. Purkyně University, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic;

ABSTRACT: Twenty years ago, the European Union launched one of its flagship environmental regulations, the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Since its inception in 2000, the WFD has been a guiding light for water professionals within and beyond the EU; it has pioneered ecological standards for water quality, cycles of river basin management planning, participatory forms of water governance, novel economic instruments, and a recurrent assessment regime. At the same time, the WFD has – by virtue of the far-reaching nature of its interventions – aroused political resistance and encountered bureaucratic lethargy; together with many other factors, these have significantly limited its positive impact on the aquatic environment. This Special Issue looks back over the past 20 years to assess what the WFD has achieved, where it has fallen short of expectations, and why. In this introductory piece, the guest editors set the scene and summarise the key findings of the 12 subsequent papers in terms of 6 processes that are characteristic of the WFD’s trajectory: implementation, indication, incrementation, inspiration, imitation and insubordination.

KEYWORDS: European Union, Water Framework Directive, water policy, implementation


Bottling water differently, and sustaining the water commons? Social innovation through water service franchising in Cambodia

Isaac Lyne
Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, New South Wales, Australia;

ABSTRACT: Until recently, bottled drinking water was a cause for concern with regard to development in the Global South; now, however, it is embraced as a way to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal target 6.1, which calls for the achievement by the year 2030 of "[u]niversal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all". Reaching the SDG 6.1 target through the use of bottled drinking water is controversial as there are broad questions about how any form of packaged – and therefore commodified – water can be ethical or consistent with "the human right to water" that was ratified in 2010 by the United Nations member states. By examining a social innovation enacted by a Cambodian NGO called Teuk Saat 1001, this research questions the polarising narratives of marketised and packaged water. Teuk Saat 1001 operates a social enterprise service franchise that delivers treated family-scale drinking water in refillable 20-litre polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles directly to customers’ houses. In contrast to literature that focuses on the strategic development of such organisations, this research combines a bottom-up view of community interaction with an analysis of hybrid institutional arrangements and ethical debates about the role of the state in water regulation. From a postcapitalist perspective, it considers entrepreneurial subjectivities fostered by bottled water as a 'service' and asks if this mode of packaged water can – contrary to the general arguments – actually help to sustain the water commons. The paper also considers temporality and water ethics; it concludes that models like this require close monitoring, considering the general history of commercial non-profits.

KEYWORDS: Drinking water, postcapitalism, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), social enterprise, social innovation, the commons, Cambodia





Soft power, discourse coalitions, and the proposed interbasin water transfer between Lake Chad and the Congo River

Ramazan Caner Sayan
United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), UNU-INWEH, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada;

Nidhi Nagabhatla
United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), UNU-INWEH, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; and School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada;

Marvel Ekwuribe
School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; and United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), UNU-INWEH, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Since the 1960s, Lake Chad’s declining water level has been a hot topic on the political agendas of the Sahel region. For some decades, diverting water from the Congo River to Lake Chad via an interbasin water transfer (IBWT) has been considered to be the only way that Lake Chad can be saved. Accordingly, two IBWT projects have been put on the table. The first one, the Transaqua Project, has been in development since the 1970s; it involves the construction of a 2400-kilometre-long canal between the two basins. The second proposal was drafted in 2011 and entails the construction of a shorter canal (1350 km) which aims to divert water from two reservoirs that are to be constructed on the Ubangi River, one of the main tributaries of the Congo River. In 2018, the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) chose the first proposal as their preferred option to revive Lake Chad. While the IBWT idea has been promoted as part of political agendas, French scientists and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been firmly opposed to it. This article focuses on the discourse coalitions which are competing to promote or block the IBWT project and include companies, the riparian states of both basins, non-riparian states, international organisations, NGOs, and experts. The paper applies a mixed methods approach of discourse, document, and media analysis. Diplomatic and technocratic processes related to the IBWT issue, and the motivations of multiple actors to promote or object to the IBWT projects, are revealed through an examination of soft power tactics and strategies such as agenda setting, knowledge construction, securitisation, issue linkage, and exclusion from negotiation processes. Overall, this article examines the transboundary water interactions between the two relatively under-researched basins of Lake Chad and the Congo River; it highlights how non-state actors (particularly companies) have led to a reshaping of transboundary water politics.

KEYWORDS: Transboundary water politics, discourse coalitions, soft power, interbasin water transfer, Lake Chad, Congo River





The challenge of irrigation water pricing in the Water Framework Directive

José Albiac
Agrifood Research and Technology Center (CITA-DGA) and IA2, Zaragoza, Spain;

Elena Calvo
Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zaragoza, Spain;

Taher Kahil
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria;

Encarna Esteban
School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Zaragoza, Spain;

ABSTRACT: The scarcity and degradation of water resources is an important environmental challenge in Europe, which is being addressed by the Water Framework Directive, the Urban Waste Water Directive, and the Nitrates Directive. Water pricing is an essential component of the Water Framework Directive, and the increase of water prices up to full recovery costs is a valuable measure in urban networks. However, water pricing may not be the best reallocation instrument for irrigated agriculture. In irrigated agriculture, water pricing is challenging because water for irrigation is usually a common pool resource. Water pricing could recover costs and indicate scarcity in the long run, but it doesn’t seem feasible in the short run for irrigation water reallocation. Other policy instruments such as water markets and institutional cooperation seem more operational for water reallocation. The Water Framework Directive includes the 'polluter pays principle' as the suitable rule for pollution abatement. But the principle cannot be applied to agricultural pollution since this pollution is non-point, and water pricing is not the right abatement instrument. Also, the flimsy outcomes from the Nitrates Directive since 1991 call for a revision of the pollution abatement measures. This paper reviews the water policy instruments that could be more suitable for achieving the objectives of the Water Framework Directive, and the paper highlights the need for combining instruments to deal with the public good, common pool resource, and private good characteristics of water.

KEYWORDS: Policy instruments in irrigation, Water Framework Directive, Nitrates Directive, water pricing, collective action


Despite great expectations in the Seine River Basin, the WFD did not reduce diffuse pollution

Gabrielle Bouleau
Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Sciences Innovations Société (LISIS), UGE, CNRS, INRAE, Marne-la-Vallée, France;

Rémi Barbier
Ecole Nationale du Génie de l’eau et de l’environnement de Strasbourg, UMR INRA-ENGEES GESTE, Strasbourg;

Marie-Pierre Halm-Lemeille
Ifremer, Port en Bessin, France;

Bruno Tassin
Ecole des Ponts, LEESU, Champs-sur-Marne, France ; Univ. Paris Est Créteil, LEESU, Créteil, France;

Arnaud Buchs
Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Sciences Po Grenoble, CNRS, INRAE, Grenoble INP, GAEL, Grenoble, France;

Florence Habets
CNRS and ENS Laboratoire de Géologie, Ecole normale supérieure, Paris, France;

ABSTRACT: European stakeholders engaged in combatting the eutrophication of the North Sea welcomed three Water Framework Directive innovations: a more holistic approach to quality, the binding nature of WFD objectives, and greater public participation. Twenty years later, however, there has been a disappointing amount of progress in the reduction of diffuse pollution. In the Seine River Basin, the amount of livestock rearing is low; yet the basin is subject to significant diffuse pollution due to agriculture. This paper reports our study of this case; we examine the literature on WFD implementation policy in order to identify the physical and social causes of this failure to reduce diffuse pollution. We show that the nitrates, phosphorus, and pesticides that affect ground, surface and marine waters are attributable to structural changes in agricultural production rather than to inefficient farming practices. We describe how a series of instruments that were designed to combat the diffuse agricultural origins of pollutants have had little effect. We identify the main obstacles to improvement as being the dispersion of the targeted public and the dispersion of benefits, given the current nature of legitimacy in the European Union. This case illustrates the fact that intensive agricultural production has an impact on water quality far beyond the problem of excess manure from livestock production.

KEYWORDS: Diffuse pollution, policy implementation, output legitimacy, regulatory space, intensive agriculture, WFD, Seine River Basin, France


Participation in river basin planning under the Water Framework Directive – Has it benefitted good water status?

Marlene Rimmert
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg;

Lucie Baudoin
Universitat Ramon Llull, ESADE, Sant Cugat, Spain;

Benedetta Cotta
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute of Sustainability Governance, Lüneburg, Germany;

Elisa Kochskämper
Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Erkner;

Jens Newig
Institute of Sustainability Governance, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute of Sustainability Governance and Center for the Study of Democracy, Lüneburg, Germany;

ABSTRACT: The participation of societal groups and of the broader public has been a key feature in implementing the European Water Framework Directive (WFD). Non-state actor participation in the drafting of river basin management plans was expected to help achieve the directive’s environmental goals, but the recent literature leaves us doubtful whether this has in fact been the case. This study examines a structured online survey of 118 public water managers, covering the six biggest European Union states ofFrance, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK. We assess multiple facets of participation, for example the involved actors, the intensity of communication exchange, and participants’ influence on planning. Results show that participatory WFD implementation has included a wide range of actor groups but rarely citizens, and that there has been minimal provision for interactive communication. The value of active involvement to the reaching of environmental goals was assessed as limited and that of public consultation as insignificant. Participants who were actively involved mainly contributed by advocating for stronger environmental standards and by providing implementation-relevant knowledge. Potential reasons for the overall poor record of participation include the strong influence of agriculture and the lack of public interest. Our findings suggest that, in hindsight, the European Commission’s conviction that participation benefits good water status appears overly naïve.

KEYWORDS: Active involvement, river basin management, ecological outcomes, mandated participatory planning, European water governance, participatory governance, stakeholder involvement


Perception of bottlenecks in the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive

Aude Zingraff-Hamed
Technical University of Munich, Chair for Strategic Landscape Planning and Management, Freising, Germany;

Barbara Schröter
Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Müncheberg, Germany;

Simon Schaub
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Institut für Politische Wissenschaft, Heidelberg;

Robert Lepenies
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH, Leipzig, Germany;

Ulf Stein
Ecologic Institute, Berlin, Germany;

Frank Hüesker
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH, Leipzig, Germany;

Claas Meyer
Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Müncheberg, Germany;

Christian Schleyer
Institute of Geography, Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria;

Susanne Schmeier
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands;

Martin T. Pusch
Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Berlin, Germany;

ABSTRACT: The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) entered into force in December 2000; it marks a decisive turn in European water governance and related policies, management practices and restoration trends. After 20 years of implementation through two management cycles, EU member states have transposed the WFD requirements into national law, performed baseline assessments of water bodies, and implemented first measures such as hydromorphological river restoration which aims to achieve 'good ecological status', or at least the potential level targeted for that particular water body, by 2027. So far, however, WFD implementation has shown limited success; this weak result has given rise to studies, which are mainly discussions about possible technical limitations of WFD implementation and the appropriateness of monitoring procedures. This paper complements these studies by exploring governance-related bottlenecks that have emerged in the last two decades, as perceived by scientists and practitioners. An online survey was conducted which built on a list of 24 barriers to WFD implementation; these barriers had been identified previously by more than 40 researchers during a workshop in January 2019 and through a literature review. In this survey, the list of perceived barriers to WFD implementation was shared to 130 scientists and practitioners, who were asked to prioritise the items on list. Taken together, four main barriers to WFD implementation were identified: 1) problems related to horizontal intersectoral communication, 2) insufficient land reserves, 3) insufficient staff capacities, and 4) inadequate funding. The results of the analysis of WFD implementation indicated a bottleneck at the governance level that was due to insufficient horizontal collaboration and communication. This result is not in line with previous surveys that identified policy integration as the main bottleneck. We conclude from this that the governance dimension of WFD implementation merits more attention in terms of both research and political consultation in order to identify the needs for action that are key to improved WFD implementation.

KEYWORDS: Water governance, water-related institutions, cross-sectoral river management, river restoration, European Water Framework Directive


The ontological fallacy of the Water Framework Directive: Implications and alternatives

Jamie Linton
Université de Limoges, Limoges, France;

Tobias Krueger
IRI THESys, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany;

ABSTRACT: This paper argues that in many cases the failure to reach the implementation goals of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is not due to a lack of political will or to implementation deficits; rather, it is due to a fundamental conceptual problem that we characterise as an ontological fallacy that is built into the directive. This ontological fallacy is founded on a radical conceptual separation of nature from human society, one which Bruno Latour identified over 25 years ago as the "modern Constitution" (Latour, 1993). We draw mainly from research in political ecology to develop this argument; in the process, we discuss some of the main features of what we call the WFD system, especially the concept of 'reference conditions' and the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework. We build on this critical research by analysing controversies in England and France that surround efforts to attain good ecological status for water bodies under the WFD. Our paper is intended to help address what Boeuf and Fritsch (2016) identify as "a conspicuous lack of theory in WFD scholarship". We argue that unless European water policy is placed on a more realistic ontological footing, it risks losing political legitimacy as well as popular and scientific credibility.

KEYWORDS: Water Framework Directive, ontology, nature/society, reference conditions, DPSIR