Analyzing governance conditions and network characteristics for integrated watershed management

Adam French, of the Advanced Systems Analysis and Risk, Policy and Vulnerability programs, is examining the potential for watersheds in the water-stressed Global South to switch to Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), an integrated, multi-sectoral form of water governance.

Adam French

Adam French


Balancing growing water demands in the context of increasingly stressed hydrologic supplies is one of society’s foremost challenges. This problem is particularly acute in many regions of the Global South, where the impacts of climate change are pronounced and shortages of technical and financial resources can slow adaptation progress. In response, water-management experts and policy advocates are promoting a transition to integrated, multi-sectoral water governance at the watershed scale modeled on the IWRM paradigm. As a strategy, IWRM is targeted at balancing social, economic, and environmental values over water through stakeholder participation and efficient resource use supported by a combination of management instruments, institutional innovations, and enabling conditions. This research is designed to support the adaptive processes and social learning crucial for IWRM through the production of policy-relevant and stakeholder-informed insights into social relations and organizational conditions that both facilitate and hinder transitions to multi-sectoral water governance at the river-basin scale.


The research consists of two principal components: 1) A systematic review and critical meta-analysis of the academic literature on transitions to IWRM practices at the watershed scale, with a focus on the Global South, and 2) Empirical research into the IWRM transition and the linked formation of watershed councils in important river basins in western Peru. The meta-analytical component will yield synthetic insights into specific conditions of both successful and failed transitions toward integrated watershed governance at the global scale. The empirical component will produce detailed histories of institutional and organizational development and actor participation as well as stakeholder perceptions of these processes that will guide process-tracing analyses and provide inputs for exploratory network analysis. Together, these components will support the development of a broadly applicable conceptual and analytical framework for assessing key enabling conditions and barriers for integrated watershed management with particular relevance to governance contexts in the Global South.

Expected results

Together the systematic literature review and empirical analyses will elucidate issues related to:

  1. The opportunities and costs of participation in integrated water governance for different actors.
  2. The potential of different network arrangements to transfer information and other resources between actors, the importance of collective identities and shared norms in fomenting connectivity and social capital formation.
  3. The degree to which power and decision-making in the network is polycentric versus centralized and hierarchical.
  4. The role of factors external to formal governance networks in shaping decisions and outcomes.

Additionally, the project will explore the potential to use social network analysis methods and network visualizations to enhance understandings of both the degree and quality of connectivity in IWRM.


Adam French is a US citizen, and is a Peter de Janosi Fellowship Postdoctoral Scholar.

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Last edited: 02 March 2016

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