Innovative Water Governance: the approach of WaterProtect

Water governance is at the center of the work packages of WaterProtect. More precisely, WaterProtect is working on the development and investigation of innovative water governance models. Els Belmans (ILVO) is rersponsible for this work package and explains us about the approach and the current status of the work in the action labs.

“There are several options to deal with the water quality problem. Regulatory mechanisms such as legislation and control can be combined with stimulating strategies such as communication, (alternative) financing, social pressure, peer-to-peer learning and education to achieve the preservation and enhancement of surface- and groundwater quality.

All the actors together share the responsibility to deal with the water quality in a suitable way. In addition to government agencies, private and civil society actors can also contribute and take up a role to achieve the goal of a good water quality. In work package 2 on water governance, we would like to get insight into how different governance theories work out in the real world. Success factors and difficulties for effective, efficient and inclusive water governance systems will be identified.

In WaterProtect, we started with the development of a ‘governance framework’ (deliverable 2.1) to get insights in the starting situation related to governance in the seven action labs. We noticed that there is a lot of data collection in all of the Water Protect action labs. Yet, it appears that the current data sharing has a limited impact on awareness of the water quality problem in th area.

Regulation is currently the main strategy to cope with the water quality problem and is typically done by the many governmental organisations. The policies and regulation are often formulated top-down and in a hierarchical way. Civil society actors (inhabitants, farmers, schools, etc.) and private actors (water companies, agricultural industries, etc.) are mostly not involved when the policy is developed. In many cases, we notice that a leader to handle the problem is missing.

In the coming period of the project, action labs will experiment with (new) combinations of steering mechanisms to achieve a good water quality. Based on the work in the action labs, we should be able to make recommendations on which governance mechanisms have been effective and how to realize this in an efficient and effective way."