Volume 36, Issues 2-3

March – May 2020

Foreword »
Masagos Zulkifli

Editorial »
Cecilia Tortajada and Eduardo Araral


A decade of work on water governance at the OECD: what have we learnt?

Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, France

Contact: Angel Gurría | Email: angel.gurria@oecd.org


Our societies, economic systems and collective well-being depend on water security and access to water services. Yet, megatrends related to climate change, urbanization and demography are likely to generate more uncertainty about water availability and demand. Responding to these threats will require sharp actions to ensure universal access to drinking water and sanitation. Simultaneous action is also needed to invest in infrastructure and better articulate who does what, how, at which scale, and why. This article explores a decade of work on water governance at the OECD, providing key observations and lessons learnt.

Pages: 229–234


The knowledge economy in the twenty-first century: a modest proposal

Annie Callanan

Chief Executive, Taylor & Francis Group, Abingdon, UK

Contact: Annie Callanan | Email: annie.callanan@tandf.co.uk

Pages: 235–238


Scotland: a world-leading Hydro Nation

Anton Muscatelli, Erin McKee and Sean McGivern

Principal, University of Glasgow, UK

Contact: Anton Muscatelli | Email: principal@glasgow.ac.uk


We are facing a global crisis and the status quo must change if we want to preserve our planet for future generations. The University  of Glasgow was the first in Scotland to declare a climate emergency and as a progressive Scottish institution, it is our responsibility to lead the way in promoting sustainable practice. This paper looks at some key examples that provide a model for other nations to adapt their own practices for water and wastewater management. It discusses why Scotland has chosen to view water as a major financial resource for the country and how public-sector bodies collaborate effectively with communities to ensure the people of Scotland reap the benefits of green water management.

Pages: 239–244


Nestlé’s corporate water strategy over time: a backward- and forward-looking view

Paul Bulckea, Samuel Vionnetb, Christian Vousvourasa and Ghislaine Wedera

aNestlé SA, Vevey, Switzerland; bValuing Nature, Antigua, Guatemala

Contact: Paul Bulcke | Email: paul.bulcke@nestle.com


Water is essential for the food industry, including sourcing, production, distribution and consumption. This article documents the journey taken by Nestlé with regard to water since the early 2000s. We take a deeper dive into its most recent corporate initiative, Caring for Water, and make a first attempt to quantify the impact of this initiative on the business and society, within a mindset of creating shared value. The article concludes by trying to draw out some general lessons that may be further explored to strengthen future corporate initiatives. The overall importance of collaboration is highlighted as a critical ingredient.

Pages: 245–257


Scarcity of water or scarcity of management?

David Molden

Director General, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)

Contact: David Molden | Email: david.molden@icimod.org


This article investigates the relation between water scarcity and water management. There are many different perceptions of water scarcity, which can include the conditions of arid environments, a general lack of access to water, insufficient water at a basin scale, or difficulty in meeting competing needs. All these issues will intensify with greater consumption and climate change. Asit Biswas reminds us that the root cause of scarcity is the way water is managed. Following this wisdom, I examine different contexts of scarcity I have encountered in my work and reflect on the management challenges which drive and transform water scarcity.

Pages: 258–268


Singapore’s water challenges past to present

Peter Joo Hee Ng and Celine Teo

PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency

Contact: Celine Teo | Email: Celine_TEO@pub.gov.sg


Problems with drought, floods and public sanitation are commonplace for any developing country. The manner in which Singapore has overcome these difficulties, however, may well be exceptional. Water scarcity was, is, and remains a trial for Singapore’s decision makers. Singapore’s water management method is distinguished by three qualities: integration, circularity and the taking of an uncommonly long view. Thus, despite nature’s poor endowment, today’s Singapore is not short of water. This is possible only because it has been realistic about its circumstances, and has used its intellect and imagination, researching continuously, and continues to muster the will to pursue hard-nosed water policies.

Pages: 269–277


Facing the challenge of extreme climate: the case of  Metropolitan Sao Paulo

B. Bragaa and J. Kelmanb

aUniversidade de São Paulo (USP), Escola Politécnica – Departamento de Engenharia Hidráulica e Ambiental,  São Paulo, Brazil; bUniversidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Instituto Alberto Luiz Coimbra de Pós-Graduação e Pesquisa de  Engenharia (Coppe), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Contact: B. Braga | Email: benbraga@hotmail.com


This article describes the hydrologic conditions that resulted in the most severe drought ever experienced in Metropolitan São Paulo (2014–2015). The dramatic situation was tackled by structural and non-structural initiatives by water authorities to avoid social chaos in a region home to more than 21 million people. The article also considers the post-crisis scenario when, in 2018, the metropolis was hit by another serious drought. Due to more rational consumption, a better prepared water system and the start-up of two major water transfer structures, which added new contributions from nearby basins, the critical situation was not perceived by the population.

Pages: 278–291


China’s achievements of water governance over the past  seven decades

Shaofeng Jia and Wenbin Zhu

Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Process/Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

Contact: Wenbin Zhu | Email: zhuwb@igsnrr.ac.cn


Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, great achievements have been made by China in all aspects of water governance. Besides water conservancy projects, a water resources management system with Chinese characteristics has also been completed. In this article, we summarize the achievements of the past 70 years in flood control, soil and water conservation and water supply, and introduce the water governance institutions of China that sustain those achievements. This provides valuable experience and ideas for other countries that are suffering from similar water issues.

Pages: 292–310


Some reflections on water for residential uses in developed countries

Francisco González-Gómeza,b, Miguel Á. García-Rubioa,b and Jorge Guardiolaa

aDepartment of Applied Economics, University of Granada, Spain; bWater Institute, Granada, Spain

Contact: Francisco González-Gómez | Email: fcojose@ugr.es


Although the major challenges concerning access to water are found in developing countries, the problems affecting developed countries should not be overlooked. These include non-universal access for the poorest households, deterioration in the quality of water resources, and in some cases, reluctance to accept non-conventional sources of water. Faced with this situation, it is reasonable to ask whether sufficient, appropriate efforts are being made to prevent a decline in the well-being of a growingshare of the population. Finding a solution to these challenges requires a holistic approach.

Pages: 311–324


Can water professionals do more?

Michael Rouse

Department of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK and International Advisor

Contact: Michael Rouse | Email: michaeljrouse@yahoo.co.uk


Based on case studies, the author identifies some critical elements for successful water services. The article reviews some policy aspects,  namely the need for sustainable cost recovery, that piped supply is the best option in urban areas, and that there is no viable alternative  to continuous (24/7) water supply for achieving sustainable services.  Although water professionals are  justified in having promoted, and  in continuing to promote, these policies, they have failed to communicate  these critical  elements to government decision makers.  The author suggests a possible route to correcting this failure.

Pages: 325–337


Reflections on flood control in Japan and recommendations for developing countries

Yutaka Takahasia, Kimio Takeyab, Miki Inaokac, Wataru Onoc and Kaoru Sasaokac

aProfessor Emeritus, Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan; bDistinguished Technical Advisor to the President, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo; cGlobal Environment Department, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo

Contact: Miki Inaoka | Email: Inaoka.Miki@jica.go.jp


This paper describes the discussions on flood control in Japan, recently adding climate change, and the activities of the Japan International Cooperation Agency for disaster risk reduction. JICAled the negotiations of the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk  Reduction 2015–2030, as a main member of the government of  Japan. The Sustainable Development Goals’ demand to ‘leave no one behind’ requires that the social system protect even the  poorest people who live in disaster-prone areas. Local disaster  risk reduction planning plays an indispensable role; and JICA wrote an eight-step methodology to formulate these plans. The emphasis in each country needs to shift from planning to implementation.

Pages: 338–350


A retrospective analysis of Laos’s Nam Theun 2 Dam

Thayer Scudder

Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA

Contact: Thayer Scudder | Email: tzs@hss.caltech.edu


I was appointed in 1997 at the start of the World Bank’s independent International Environmental and Social Panel of Experts for the Nam Theun 2 Dam. I made over 20 visits to Laos to carry out our analyses, before resigning in March 2014. This article concentrates on the Nakai Plateau resettlement and, where relevant, the dam’s Watershed Management and Protection Area, which included a large area between the future reservoir and the Vietnam border. It includes what I consider the main mistakes that were made during the resettlement process on the Nakai Plateau.

Pages: 351–370


What I learned from Asit Biswas about transboundary water, ethics, mentoring and, in general, how to be a better human being

Aaron T. Wolf

Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA

Contact: Aaron T. Wolf | Email: wolfa@geo.oregonstate.edu

Pages: 371–376


Water resilience and human life support – global outlook for the next half century

Malin Falkenmark

Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm, Sweden

Contact: Malin Falkenmark | Email: malin.falkenmark@su.se


This article highlights green and blue water functions in the densely tied global water network, stabilizing the life support system and generating ecosystems and ecological services. Essential water challenges of the next half century are analyzed, identifying lowlatitude dryland vulnerability and sharpening hydro-social water constraints. Attention is drawn to global warming, and the crucial roles of water and agriculture in stabilizing Holocene climate below a fatal warming of +2 °C or more. The article ends with a hydroclimatic, hydro-social and hydro-ecological outlook on how to principally navigate a resilient life support system stressed by climate change, population growth and increasing demands.

Pages: 377–396


Adaptive and sustainable water management: from improved conceptual foundations to transformative change

Claudia Pahl-Wostl

Institute of Environmental Systems Research, University of Osnabrück, Germany

Contact: Claudia Pahl-Wostl | Email: cpahlwos@uni-osnabrueck.de


Water resources management is far from being sustainable, despite decades of scholarly work to improve the conceptual foundations of water management practice. Arguments have been provided that paradigm shifts are needed towards more integrated and adaptive water management approaches. This article provides a critical reflection on the translation of such claims from discourse to practice. It reviews conceptual developments and discusses persistent challenges. Some developments that might trigger transformative change are highlighted. These include climate change,  nexus approaches to integrated landscape management, and the role of indigenous communities. The article makes recommendations on how science can support mobilizing the transformative potential of these developments.

Pages: 397–415


Economically challenged and water scarce: identification of global populations most vulnerable to water crises

Taikan Okia,b and Rose E. Quiochoc

aUnited Nations University, Tokyo, Japan; bInstitute for Future Initiatives, University of Tokyo, Japan; cGraduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo, Japan

Contact: Taikan Oki | Email: taikan@iis.u-tokyo.ac.jp


The best available high-resolution precipitation, GDP, available freshwater and withdrawal data sets are used in a combined global analysis of physical and economic water scarcity at 50 km resolution. We find that approximately 40.7 million people are living in areas with concurrent severe economic and water-scarcity constraints. These areas are mostly in semi-arid parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Pages: 416–428


The status of the UN Watercourses Convention: does it still hold water?

Gabriel Eckstein

Texas A&M University School of Law, Fort Worth, TX, USA

Contact: Gabriel Eckstein | Email: gabrieleckstein@law.tamu.edu


When the UN General Assembly adopted the Watercourses Convention in 1997, it was heralded as a major milestone in the evolution of international water law. Yet, more than 20 years later and five years since it came into force, enthusiasm for the instrument appears to have waned. Based on patterns in the UNGA vote and assorted ratifications, and statements of various delegates to the UN’s International Law Committee, Sixth Committee and General Assembly, positions on the convention’s text are explored to uncover possible reasons for its diminishing appeal. Other externalities are also considered in terms of the convention’s viability.

Pages: 429–461


Australian water decision making: are politicians performing?

James Horne

James Horne and Associates, Canberra, Australia

Contact: James Horne | Email: jameshorne@iinet.net.au


Australia has husbanded its water resources to deliver laudable environmental and economic outcomes. But a close examination reveals some areas where decisions have resulted in poor outcomes  and unsatisfactory use of public funds. This article examines some of these decisions through four case studies in which I suggest that current water infrastructure governance arrangements should be  improved, through compelling politicians to place a greater focus  on delivering value for  money from infrastructure investments.  Delivering higher-quality water services to remote indigenous communities should also be accorded a much higher priority.

Pages: 462–483


Rent-seeking behaviour and regulatory capture in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia

R. Quentin Grafton and John Williams

Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra

Contact: R. Quentin Grafton | Email: quentin.grafton@anu.edu.au


We examine water governance in the Murray-Darling Basin using the frameworks of rent-seeking and regulatory capture. These frameworks are used to evaluate two government programmes intended to ensure an environmentally sustainable level of water diversions in the basin: targeted one-on-one purchases of water entitlements from designated sellers; and subsidies for irrigation infrastructure to increase irrigation efficiency. Deficiencies in delivering the stated environmental goals of both programmes, and questions about their ‘value for money’, are highlighted. Specific recommendations are provided about how tomitigate both rent-seeking and regulatory capture of water reform initiatives in large river basins.

Pages: 484–504


Quenching the thirst of rapidly growing and water-insecure cities in sub-Saharan Africa

Madiodio Niassea and Olli Varisb

aLand, Water and Environmental Governance Expert, Ngaparou, Senegal; bWater and Development Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland

Contact: Olli Varis | Email: olli.varis@aalto.fi


It is in the water sector that Africa faces some of its more pressing challenges, which are exacerbated with the sprawl of megacities. The gap between water requirements and available water resources is widening. While the urbanization process is still accelerating, acute seasonal and chronic water shortages are already encountered in almost all major cities. Unless the direction is radically changed, sub-Saharan Africa is headed towards an urban water crisis of alarming proportions. Based on city experiences in Africa and comparison to those in India, we draw lessons and suggest response options for tackling urban water crisis risks in Africa.

Pages: 505–527


Sustainability of water and energy use for food production based on optimal allocation of agricultural irrigation water

Mo Lia and Vijay P. Singhb,c

aSchool of Water Conservancy & Civil Engineering, Northeast Agricultural University, Harbin, China; bDepartment of Biological and Agricultural Engineering & Zachry Department of Civil and Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, USA; cNational Water Center, UAE University, AI Ain, United Arab Emirates

Contact: Vijay P. Singh | Email: vsingh@tamu.edu


Food security is inextricably linked with water and energy use in irrigated agriculture. This article develops an optimization model to evaluate the sustainability of water and energy use for food production, and the coordination among water, energy and carbon footprints. A case study of Heping Irrigation District, China, demonstrates the applicability of the model. We find that 87.47, 86.12, and 83.67 million m3 of irrigation water allocation are sustainable for high, normal, and low flow levels, respectively, considering economic, social and environmental benefits. The structure of surface water and groundwater allocation remains consistent for different subareas.

Pages: 528–546


Rethinking on the methodology for assessing global water and food challenges

M. Dinesh Kumara, Nitin Bassib and O. P. Singhc

aInstitute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad, India; bInstitute for Resource Analysis and Policy Liaison Office, New Delhi, India; cDepartment of Agricultural Economics, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India

Contact: M. Dinesh Kumar | Emails: dinesh@irapindia.org; dineshcgiar@gmail.com


The article delinks food security challenges from the challenge of supplying water to meet the needs of the industrial, livestock, domestic and environmental sectors to analyze the food security and water management challenges of individual nations. For this, three indices are developed: the water adequacy index, water-land index and water-land-pasture index. Their values are computed for 172 countries. The analysis suggests that the criteria for assessing the magnitude of food insecurity and water scarcity problems should include agricultural land, particularly cultivated land and pastureland, along with renewable water.

Pages: 547–564