Volume 38, Issue 4

July 2022
Special Issue on Improving Connectivity in Water Governance: The Implementation of Water Cooperation Mechanisms in Disparate Political and Social Contexts

Introduction »

Improving connectivity in water governance: the implementation of water cooperation mechanisms in disparate political and social contexts

Raymond Yu Wang, Marleen van Rijswick & Liping Dai

Research Article

Governance conditions to overcome the challenges of realizing safe urban bathing water sites

Susanne Wuijtsa,b, Lieke Friederichsa, Judith A. Hina, Franciska M. Schetsa, Helena F. M. W. Van Rijswickc and Peter P. J. Driessenb

aNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, Netherlands; bCopernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Netherlands; cUtrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Contact: Susanne Wuijts | Email: susanne.wuijts@rivm.nl


This study aims to identify governance conditions to realize urban bathing water sites using case study material from two cities in the Netherlands. Urban waters in Europe are increasingly considered an attractive feature for bathing, but research on the realization of urban bathing water sites has been limited. We find that it is important to account for the connectivity between water systems characteristics and governance conditions to increase effectiveness in the realization of urban bathing water sites. Ambitions regarding urban bathing water sites should be addressed in a wider policy context to create co-benefits, like other ambitions related to water quality, resilience and health. An analytical framework has been developed that could be used to support development and evaluation of future urban bathing water initiatives.

Pages: 554–578


Research Article

The politics of practical implementation: reloading of information by competing coalitions in EU water governance

Marjolein Carolina Johanna van Eerd and Mark A. Wiering

Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Contact: Marjolein Carolina Johanna van Eerd | Email: Marjolein.van.eerd@rws.nl


More open European Union policies, such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD), are often shaped on the go. ‘Bottom-up’ feedback from the implementing agencies plays an important role. How this feedback influences ongoing policies is here conceptualized as ‘reloading’. The case for the reuse of water is presented. International coalition-building proved to be important in agencies’ strategic behaviour: a clear dichotomy between Northern and Southern member states is distinguished. The receptiveness of the European Commission, the openness of the European Union policies, and societal and political attention to the issue of reuse all explain the changes in water reuse policy.

Pages: 579–595


Research Article

On dynamic naturalness, static regulation and human influence in the Ems-Dollard estuary

Karianne van der Werfa, Herman Kasper Gilissenb, Maarten Kleinhansa and Marleen van Rijswickb

aDepartment of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, Netherlands; bUtrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Department of Law, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Contact: Herman Kasper Gilissen | Email: H.K.Gilissen@uu.nl


Many river systems in Europe have altered morphology and deteriorated ecosystems due to human interference. We demonstrate how conflicting interests of nature, society and economics in the Dutch–German Ems-Dollard system complicate achieving the nature restoration targeted by the EU Water Framework Directive. This article provides a multidisciplinary perspective on the natural characteristics of a water system and the practical implementation of regulation and policy in a transboundary setting. Important shortcomings of EU and national laws and directives are the static constraints for protection of demarcated habitats under EU directives, which do not do justice to natural hydro-morphodynamic processes.

Pages: 596–615


Research Article

Political participation and small-scale fishery management in the Tonlé Sap, Cambodia

Serey Soka, Fenglong Wangb and Nyda Chhinhc

aResearch Office, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; bSchool of Geography & Center of Administrative Division and Spatial Governance, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China; cFaculty of Development Studies, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Contact: Fenglong Wang | Email: wfldragon@163.com


This paper investigates fishery governance in Tonlé Sap, Cambodia, with a specific focus on fishery management since 1963 and recent determinants of political participation. The research suggests that the policy reforms leading to the implementation of open-access fisheries have not produced satisfactory outcomes due to inequitable access to fishery resources. The results of statistical analyses reveal: the dependency of small-scale fisherfolk on fishery resources; the level of institutional support available to small-scale fisherfolk; the capacity of the local community; and the important roles fishery management initiatives play in determining the level of political participation in fishery governance.

Pages: 616–633


Research Article

The selective centralization in decentralization: China’s environmental vertical management reform with a case study in Hebei province

Tong Xu

Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Contact: Tong Xu | Email: t.xu@uu.nl


This article examines why and how China’s environmental vertical management reform has been carried out and how well it helps to improve the implementation of local policies. By applying the theoretical framework of ‘dynamics, strategy, and capacities’ in Hebei province as a case, the changes in the policy process have been fully revealed. The article concludes that the reform shows the character of selective centralization in decentralization, which facilitates the establishment of a degree of standardization in policy implementation. However, a new phenomenon of ‘selective implementation’ has been spotted which severely distorts the actual results of this reform.

Pages: 634–657


Research Article

Scalar configuration, power strategies and water governance: insights from the politics of the Yangtze-to-Huai Water Transfer Project

Qidong Huanga,b,c, Hairong Zhanga,b,c, Jiajun Xud and Fang Yangd

aSchool of Foreign Languages and Cultures, Hohai University, Nanjing, China; bJiangsu Research Base of Yangtze Institute for Conservation and High-Quality Development, Hohai University, Nanjing, China; cResearch Center for Economic Community of West African States, Hohai University, Nanjing, China; dThe Department of Sociology, Hohai University, Nanjing, China

Contact: Qidong Huang | Email: huangqidong@hhu.edu.cn


The paper studies the decision-making process of the Yangtze-to-Huai Water Transfer Project (YHWTP) in China to explore how governments at various levels and the public respond to spatial and jurisdictional ambiguities inherent in the incomplete decentralization of water governance. Through participatory observations, semi-structured interviews and investigation of historical records of the project, we examine scalar strategies adopted by various groups at different stages. We find that within China’s regionally decentralized authoritarian regime under centralized regulation, the scalar configurations as a result of the scalar strategies produce material consequence in the planning, designing and construction of inter-basin transfer projects. The use of such strategies transforms the existing scalar configuration, which provides a basis for further changes in the power structure.

Pages: 658–679


Research Article

Explaining the sustained public participation of ENGOs in China’s water governance: A case study of the ‘civilian river chiefs’ under the theoretical framework of ‘double embeddedness’

Raymond Yu Wanga,b, Ying Pengc and Yi Liub,d

aCenter for Social Sciences, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China; bInstitute of Strategy Research for the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area, Guangzhou, China; cSchool of Government, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China; dInstitute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Contact: Yi Liu | Email: liuy@igsnrr.ac.cn


Although essential to successful environmental governance, public participation has been sporadic and fragmented in China. Drawing on in-depth interviews conducted in the southern Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, this paper explores how environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) have carried out ‘civilian river chiefs’ projects as novel approaches to water governance. We propose a framework of ‘double embeddedness’, within which ENGOs have built political and social legitimacy, reciprocity, and networks that enable their sustained participation in water governance. Our findings suggest that new patterns of state–community–non-governmental organization relationships are key to understanding public participation in China’s future environmental governance.

Pages: 680–698


Research Article

Making a water market intermediary: the China Water Exchange

Min Jianga, Michael Webbera, Jon Barnetta, Wenjing Zhanga and Gang Liub

aSchool of Geography, Faculty of Science, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, VIC, Australia; bCollege of Management and Economics, Tianjin University, Tianjin, China

Contact: Min Jiang | Email: min.jiang2017@gmail.com


Market intermediaries play a crucial role in stitching together necessary actors for effective systems of exchange. However, there is limited understanding of how intermediaries emerge, and contribute to, water market development. This article explains how the China Water Exchange, the country’s first and only national-level water trading platform, was catalysed by a top-down imperative consistent with China’s water governance reform path. It shows how its genesis, objectives and functions reflect the congruence of goals between its key actors, and their struggles and efforts to build trust. Our focus on interorganizational dynamics adds a new perspective to understanding water market intermediaries.

Pages: 699–716


Research Article

How does the Chinese government improve connectivity in water governance? A qualitative systematic review

Tao Liua,b, Wenya Zhangc and Raymond Yu Wangd

aCollege of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China; bCentre for Urban Future Research, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China; cSchool of Government, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, P.R. China; dCentre for Social Sciences, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, P.R. China

Contact: Raymond Yu Wang | Email: wangy63@sustech.edu.cn


This article presents a qualitative systematic review of English-language academic articles on approaches adopted by the Chinese government to overcome fragmentation and disconnection in water governance. We find that the Chinese government has deployed technical, institutional and discursive instruments, ranging from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’ ways, to improve connectivity between different administrative levels, functional agencies and territorially based units. Although these approaches are conducive to reconciling conflicts, boosting collaboration and bridging gaps in interjurisdictional, crosslevel and cross-sectoral interactions, they also have unexpected implications for cost-effectiveness, practicality and sustainability.

Pages: 717–735