Global Water Governance in the 21st Century

Improving Water Governance is Critical to Addressing 21st Century Global Water Challenges

Global Water Governance in the 21st CenturyJuly 24, 2013, Oakland, CA: Growing pressure on global water resources is having major impacts on our social, economic, and environmental well-being. But despite growing recognition that the world’s water-related challenges extend beyond national and regional boundaries, there has been little-to-no discussion about global water governance that looks more holistically at shared water challenges. A new report from the Pacific Institute examines structures and approaches needed to meet the challenge of sustainable water management in an interconnected world.

“There is no single practice or policy that will ‘solve’ all of our water challenges,” said Heather Cooley, co-director of the Pacific Institute Water Program and lead author of the report. “But we need to take critical steps forward toward more efficient and effective structures and policies that promote a sustainable approach to global water governance.”

Water governance processes facilitate interaction and dialog among key players, both formal and informal, for setting standards and objectives and for resolving disputes over water resources. The report Global Water Governance in the 21st Century identifies major concerns and offers recommendations for how water governance can be improved.

Key among the recommendations are:

-Securing a sustainable funding source and a stronger mandate for intergovernmental organizations to promote greater collaboration among organizations engaged in water governance.

-Adopting new standards, codes, and best practices for water resource development and management to promote greater transparency, participation, and accountability.

-Promoting capacity building and increasing participation in water management for local, regional, and national government entities and civil society groups.

-Developing financing mechanisms to support ongoing operation and maintenance costs of water-related infrastructure and the people and institutions needed to manage it effectively.

-Improving the flexibility of existing inter-basin agreements in response to changing social, economic, and climatic conditions – and improving understanding and communication of risk and uncertainty.

“Technology and infrastructure alone have not been sufficient to address water issues in a world where 780 million people still lack access to safe water,” said Dr. Newsha Ajami, co-author of the report. “Addressing water crises has more to do with governance and with making sustainable and equitable water management a global priority.”

The report Water Governance in the 21st Century can be downloaded free of charge from the Pacific Institute website at  This work was initiated and supported by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company PJSC – Masdar.

The Pacific Institute is one of the world’s leading independent nonprofit research organizations working to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Based in Oakland, Calif., the Institute conducts interdisciplinary research and partners with stakeholders to produce solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity – in California, nationally, and internationally.

Download the full report.