Poor water governance results very often in overallocation and degradation of water resources. It can increase the water vulnerability of poor people and lead to weaker livelihoods. This can also impact the wider economic growth. Good water governance is an effective water management implementation through transparent, consistent and cost efficient policies. Building reform strategies around water governance ensures that policy changes are coordinated and internally consistent, catalysing thereby the progress on safe water supply and sanitation, IWRM implementation and transition to sustainable water management.  

IUCN Global Water Programme is actively supporting water governance reforms, needed for equitable water resources development that integrates ecosystem services and drives the IWRM implementation. At community, basin, national and transboundary levels, multi-stakeholder platforms empower participants to agree on rights, roles and responsibilities and to negotiate effective water policies, laws and institutions.


Central America

In El Salvador, micro-watershed councils negotiated management plans that resulted in coordination of local priorities for social and economic development with watershed management for the first time. This was made possible by giving legal status to watershed committees that in turn enabled management of projects and mobilised funding. The creation of the Cara Sucia - San Pedro Basin Association provided the interested actors of this watershed with a coordination mechanism to meet and make water management decisions. 

In San Marcos (Guatemala), government agencies and non-governmental organizations connected by the theme of natural resources management joined forces to develop an inter-institutional coordination entity (CORNASAM). The main purpose was to establish a framework for utilising micro-watersheds as the unit for planning and common action. Water resources management and disaster planning are now integrated through joint plans and projects that span the jurisdiction of the three watershed member commissions.

East and Southern Africa

In Botswana, the Okavango Delta Management Plan used stakeholder participation to build consensus among groups who would otherwise compete for the control of the Delta’s resources. Widespread ownership by stakeholders led to the adoption of the management plan into national economic planning and created a precedent for the entire Okavango River. Stakeholder groups at the district level could identify themselves with the management plan for the Delta ownership to the appointment of community focal persons for local representation. 

In the Pangani Basin (Tanzania), conflict has been resolved as pastoralists and farmers were helped in negotiating access to water for their cattle. Water Users Associations at upstream and downstream sites were formed alongside apex associations that were already bringing stakeholders together. Additionally, IUCN supported formation and operationalisation of the Lake Tanganyika Management Authority amongst Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia.

South-East Asia

In the Mekong River Basin national dialogues were convened to help building multi-stakeholder participation in water decisions. Civil society, governments, the Mekong River Commission and multi-lateral development banks joined to review strategies for hydropower and water resources development. The process built understanding of rights and responsibilities and increased stakeholder consultation.

West Africa

In the Volta River Basin, new, multi-stakeholder institutions formed to coordinate transboundary IWRM at sub-basin, national and basin-wide scales. At the community level, participation and inclusion of marginalised groups such as women and migrant farmers were instrumental to sharing prioritisation of problems and immediate needs such as the lack of potable water with local government administrations.

Transboundary community forums led to resolution of local water conflicts across the Ghana-Burkina Faso border and resulted in the negotiation of a transboundary Code of Conduct. The Global Water Programme, supported the agreement, made by six Volta-basin states and resulted in a Water Charter, that guides the newly-formed Volta Basin Authority. These principles were applied in the Komadugu Yobe River (Nigeria) in the Lake Chad Basin, where a Water Charter was negotiated among water users.  

Water policies and laws should enable transparent definition of rights, roles and responsibilities, including sufficient allocation of water to sustain healthy ecosystems. Multi-stakeholder platforms help to build consensus and to coordinate water resources development and ecosystem management, encouraging benefit sharing at local, basin, national and transboundary levels.