My new book on Global Water Governance with Nathanial Matthews

Global environmental challenges 2017Very pleased to announce my new book, co-authored with Nathanial Matthews, is now out with Palgrave Macmillan. A description of the book is below (or here) and the publisher’s website is here. I was delighted by the endorsement from Carl Folke, as one of the key things the book strives for is to get at the core issues in a concise and clear manner.

Global Challenges in Water Governance: Environments, Economies, Societies

“A beautiful synthesis of the emergence of water governance, its significance in human affairs, and the challenges it entails on a human dominated planet. Short, comprehensive, and easy to read. I can highly recommend it.” ~ Carl Folke, Science Director and Co-Founder of Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden

This book presents a historically situated explanation of the rise of global water governance and the contemporary challenges that global water governance seeks to address. It is particularly concerned with connecting what are often technical issues in water management with the social and political structures that affect how technical and scientific advice affects decisions. Schmidt and Matthews are careful to avoid the pitfalls of setting up opposing binaries, such as ‘nature versus culture’ or ‘private versus public’, thereby allowing readers to understand how contests over water governance have been shaped over time and why they will continue to be so.

Co-written by an academic and a practitioner, Global Challenges in Water Governance combines the dual concerns for both analytical clarity and practical applicability in a way that is particularly valuable both for educators, researchers, decision-makers, and newcomers to the complexities of water use decisions.

Missing links in Global Water Governance: a Process-Oriented Analysis

Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Ken Conca, Annika Kramer, Josefina Maestu and Falk Schmidt have a new paper out in Ecology and Society that is in the special feature on Global Water Governance that David Groenfeldt and I wrote a paper on water and ethics for. The papers are freely downloadable here.

The ‘missing links’ metaphor is very interesting – because it situates us in some chain of events, aims or objectives. These are what my latest work is focusing on. I’ve now got about 1/3 of my new book in hand and it presents a very different view of the “chain” of global governance. I hope to have the whole thing done by year’s end and, perhaps, will have a paper or two out on it around then as well.

Missing Links in Global Water Governance: a Processes-Oriented Analysis


Over the past decade, the policy and scholarly communities have increasingly recognized the need for governance of water-related issues at the global level. There has been major progress in the achievement of international goals related to the provision of basic water and some progress on sanitation services. However, the water challenge is much broader than securing supply. Doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of some of the existing governance processes, in the face of trends such as the unsustainable use of water resources, the increasing pressure imposed by climate change, or the implications of population growth for water use in food and energy production. Conflicts between different water uses and users are increasing, and the state of the aquatic environment is further declining. Inequity in access to basic water and sanitation services is still an issue. We argue that missing links in the trajectories of policy development are one major reason for the relative ineffectiveness of global water governance. To identify these critical links, a framework is used to examine how core governance processes are performed and linked. Special attention is given to the role of leadership, representativeness, legitimacy, and comprehensiveness, which we take to be critical characteristics of the processes that underpin effective trajectories of policy development and implementation. The relevance of the identified categories is illustrated with examples from three important policy arenas in global water governance: the effort to address access to water and sanitation, currently through the Millennium Development Goals; the controversy over large dams; and the links between climate change and water resources management. Exploratory analyses of successes and failures in each domain are used to identify implications and propose improvements for more effective and legitimate action.