Regional development

Water Governance in OECD Countries: A Multi-level Approach


Report objectives | Key findings | Table of contents

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Pages: 236

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There is enough water on Earth for all, even in areas where temporary shortages may exist. Managing water for all is not only a question of resources availability and money, but equally a matter of good governance. Water is essentially a local issue and involves a plethora of stakeholders at basin, municipal, regional, national and international levels.


In the absence of effective public governance to manage interdependencies across policy areas and between levels of government, policymakers inevitably face obstacles to effectively designing and implementing water reforms.


Key challenges are institutional and territorial fragmentation and badly managed multi-level governance, but also limited capacity at the local level, unclear allocation of roles and responsibilities and questionable resource allocation. 


As the 2009 OECD report Managing Water For All stated, patchy financial management and the lack of long-term strategic planning are also to blame, together with poor economic regulation and poorly drafted legislation. Insufficient means for measuring performance have also contributed to weak accountability and transparency. These obstacles are often rooted in misaligned objectives and poor management of interactions between stakeholders.


There is no one-size-fits-all answer, magic blueprint or panacea to respond to governance challenges in the water sector, but rather a plea for home-grown and place-based policies integrating territorial specificities and concerns.


The institutions in charge of water management are at different developmental stages in different countries, but common challenges – including in the most developed countries - can be diagnosed ex ante to provide adequate policy responses. To do so, there is a pressing need to take stock of recent experiences, identify good practices and develop pragmatic tools across different levels of government and other stakeholders in engaging shared, effective, fair and sustainable water policies.


Objectives of the Water Multi-level Governance Study

The multi-level approach used in the analysis aims to identify good practices for managing interdependencies between the many stakeholders involved in water management. It takes a close look at the processes through which public actors articulate their concerns, decisions are taken and policy makers are held accountable. Data were collected through an extensive survey on water governance in 2010 to which 17 OECD countries contributed.

The report provides a “reading template” to:

  • map the allocation of responsibilities in water policy design, regulation and implementation;
  • identify common multi-level governance bottlenecks for integrated water policy;
  • suggest the main policy responses for managing mutual dependencies across levels of government in water policy design and implementation;
  • promote decision-making that integrates actors at all levels; and
  • encourage the adoption of relevant capacity-building, monitoring and evaluation tools.


Key findings from the report


  Available to download


 Table of contents


Executive summary

Chapter 1
Public governance and water policies: an innovative multi-level approach

Chapter 2
Mapping institutional roles and responsibilities

Chapter 3
Challenges to co-ordinating water policies across ministries and levels of government

Chapter 4
Multi-level co-ordination of water policies

Chapter 5
Final considerations for water policy governance: preliminary guidelines

Chapter 6
Country profiles

Australia, Belgium (Flanders), Belgium (Wallonia), Canada, Chile, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom (England and Wales), United States (Colorado)


 Related OECD documents


 Available to download


 Related pages


 How to buy this book


Readers can access the full version of Water Governance in OECD Countries: A Multi-level Approach by choosing from the following options:




For more information, please contact Aziza Akhmouch:


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