Contribution by David Benson, Andrew Jordan, Laurence Smith, Hadrian Cook, and Alex Inman. Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is now a worldwide phenomenon, providing multiple venues for comparative learning on potential governance options. One ‘ideal model’ of IWRM often normatively promoted by academics and policy-makers as a learning resource is the European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD). Introduced in 2000, the Directive has rescaled water management in Member States to a network of regional river basin districts, also introducing requirements for the integrated planning of water resources.
In many respects the WFD represents the state-of-the-art in IWRM, potentially providing valuable lessons for other political systems such as the USA and Australia on how to reconcile the management of complex, transboundary water issues in three dimensions: vertically across multiple levels of governance; horizontally between competing state and non-state interests; and temporally over long run management cycles.
But lesson drawing is necessarily a two way street. An argument forwarded in our recent research is that the EU itself should look abroad as it shortly begins the process of reviewing and revising its flagship water policy. For example, although the Directive mandates public participation in planning processes, most Member States have to date struggled to engage the public in ways that move beyond what Sherry Arnstein in 1969 famously called ‘tokenism’ towards greater ‘citizen power’. After working with practitioners in the USA and Australia, it became apparent to us that these systems could show the EU much about genuinely collaborative water resource planning that incorporates different stakeholders. These contexts could also teach EU states about encouraging local level or community water resource management, particularly regarding nonpoint source pollution problems. Other learning opportunities are apparent in the environmental assessment and modelling of pollution problems, using scientific evidence in decision-making, integrating adaptive management approaches into planning and the funding of implementation measures. For EU policy-makers, national governments and water governance researchers significant potential therefore exists in facilitating ‘two way’ learning with other multi-level governance systems.