Facing hydrometeorological extreme events: A governance issue (La Jeunesse and Larrue, 2019)

Eduardo Sávio Martins

HD La Jeunesse, I. and Larrue, C. (Eds). 2019. Facing hydrometeorological extreme events: A governance issue. Wiley. ISBN: 978-1-119-38355-0, 536 p., €111.99.

(URL: www.wiley.com/en-fr/Facing+Hydrometeorological+Extreme+Events%3A+A+Governance+Issue-p-9781119383550)

Eduardo Sávio Martins

FUNCEME Research Institute in Meteorology and Water Resources, Fortaleza, Brazil; espr.martins@gmail.com

To cite this Review: Martins, E.S. 2021. Review of "Facing hydrometeorological extreme events: A governance issue", Wiley, 2019, edited by Isabelle La Jeunesse and Corinne Larrue, Water Alternatives, http://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/boh/item/49-rising


This book is part of a series of volumes focused on several aspects of hydrometeorological extremes, dealing with science-policy interface issues and developing specific discussions about these extreme events. In this series, concepts of resilience, adaptation, and governance are explored. This volume is on the governance of hydrometeorological extreme events and how it may play an important role on exposure and vulnerability of societies in areas exposed to extreme events.

The book starts by providing an explanation regarding the meaning of hydrometeorological extreme events for society and introducing the adaptative governance analysis framework for different hydrometeorological extreme events: floods, droughts and coastal storms. Focusing on the strategies of integrating risk management in governance and public policy, the book shows how societies are organizing themselves to face such extreme events.

The book is then divided in three parts corresponding to each of the extreme hydrometeorological events considered. In each part, chapters present (1) the actors involved in the management and (2) the strategies, instruments and resources used to face each of these event types. In each part of the book, then, several case studies that encompass different geographic and political contexts in which these hydrometeorological events governance issues arise are examined.

In my view, one of the most fragile aspects of the book is the predominantly European vision it exhibits. There is no case study from the southern hemisphere and, particularly, none from semiarid regions where governance issues of extreme hydrometeorological events may be even more critical. The case studies related to floods involve examples from the UK, the Netherlands, France and Belgium, while the case studies on drought governance are comprised of examples from Belgium, Germany, two cases from Italy, Turkey, Spain and a comparative study between two regions, one from France and one from the UK. This latest case study attempts to explain what changes drought governance in Europe. When dealing with the issue of coastal storms, the view is even more restricted, mostly French, with only one case from the United Kingdom.

The European context of the book is to be expected since it features the results of EU-funded projects addressing the governance of hydrometeorological extreme events (CLIMB, STARFLOOD, and INTERREG IVB project DROP). Still, the book is unique in terms of in tackling the issue of governance in relation to extreme hydrometeorological events on the basis of case studies. These explore a multi-hazards view of the issue and mix policy, governance and results from field investigations. The book draws attention to the need for multilevel governance strategies for extreme hydrometeorological events, noting that coordination mechanisms are still difficult to find, mainly because of the conflicting uses of territories under stress. The authors highlight the importance of local experiences as a starting point for a comprehensive approach to dealing with extreme hydrometeorological events, particularly in the implementation of adaptive solutions. With this in mind, professionals from other regions could attempt to analyze the issues non-European regions face from the vantage point of this collective volume that flags three main sets of questions in its final chapter:

  1. What are the specificities for either of these risks (flood, drought, coastal storms) in terms of actors, risk perception, and strategies?
  2. How can the arrangements developed by stakeholders who face hydrometeorological extreme events be characterized today? What are their modes of coordination?
  3. Finally, with regard to the perceptions of the problems and the strategies implemented to face these three types of event: how does the perception of the problems by different stakeholders change? How can the strategies and instruments in place and their ability to cope with hydrometeorological extreme events be characterized?

The authors notably found that flood governance combines a large panel of actor and instruments at various decision-making levels and constitute adaptive management, while drought governance relies more on sectoral approaches and drought management should be based on reactive, preventive and adaptive measures at the same time. For coastal storms and floods, strategies mainly rely on infrastructure implementation and as shown in the cases of studies, they have become more diverse, but population awareness of coastal storms appears to remain very low even when local actors’ involvement is strong.

Stakeholders’ arrangements revealed by the cases showed a true discrepancy between international recommendations and actual activities in the field, and as stated in the book, they should be “multilevel, sufficiently flexible, and inclusive as regards sectoral policies and provide opportunities for experimentation”.

Finally, the perception of the problem varies depending on the type of hydro-meteorological extremes, with drought events being the least anticipated. Perceptions of decision makers and the population, along with the context, contributes to the extent of which different types of hydrometeorological events are “on the agenda”.

The book does offer new knowledge, add new theoretical insights, and also introduce a new framework for analyzing the governance of three types of hydrometeorological extreme events. Through the different case of studies, the book highlights the importance of local experiments for reaching a comprehensive approach to face such extreme events and implementing adaptive solutions. The drawback of the book, as already mentioned, is the predominantly European context of the visions it portrays.

Facing Hydrometeorological Extreme Event is a valuable contribution to better understand governance issues related to hydrometeorological extremes with a multidisciplinary focus, a book for graduate students, researchers, scientists, and policy-makers working in the field.


Additional Info

  • Authors: Isabelle La Jeunesse and Corinne Larrue
  • Year of publication: 2019
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Reviewer: Eduardo Sávio Martins
  • Subject: Water policy, Water governance, Water crisis, Flood, Water security, Climate change, Drought
  • Type: Review
  • Language: English