settings Open AccessReview Modes and Approaches of Groundwater Governance: A Survey of Lessons Learned from Selected Cases across the Globe

Published in Water 8, 417: 1-24

Robert G. Varady,  Adriana A. Zuniga-Teran, Andrea K. Gerlak and Sharon B. Megdal 

Publication year 2016

Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
Water Resources Research Center, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA

IAI Program


IAI Project SGP-CRA005


The crucial role of groundwater and the centrality of water governance in accommodating growing water demands sustainably are becoming well recognized. We review 10 case studies of groundwater governance&mdashrepresenting diverse global regions and local contexts&mdashfrom the perspective of four well-established elements: (1) institutional setting (2) availability and access to information and science (3) robustness of civil society and (4) economic and regulatory frameworks. For institutional setting, we find that governing is often a thankless task that paradoxically requires popularity legislation does not always translate to implementation conflict resolution is central to governance and funding is critical for governance. In terms of information access, we see: a need for research for natural systems, social systems, and institutions trust as an essential element in research and that urbanized landscapes are critical components of groundwater governance. Looking at civil society robustness, we observe that equity is an essential element for governance community-based governance requires intention and leaders can play a powerful role in uniting stakeholders. As for frameworks, the cases suggest that economic incentives sometimes yield unintended results &ldquoindirect&rdquo management should be used cautiously and economic incentives&rsquo effectiveness depends on the system employed. Collectively, the lessons speak to the need for shared governance capacities on the part of governments at multiple levels and civil society actors.