Volume 39, Issue 6

November 2023


Water infrastructure in Asia: financing and policy options

Edoardo Borgomeoa,b, Bill Kingdomc, Judith Plummer-Braeckmand and Winston Yua,e

aWater Global Practice, World Bank, Washington, DC, USA; bEnvironmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; cIndependent Consultant, Oxford, UK; dUniversity of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Cambridge, UK; eSchool of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC, USA

Contact: Edoardo Borgomeo | Email: edoardo.borgomeo@gmail.com


How should the world deal with the problem of insufficient water infrastructure financing? Here we attempt to answer this question in the context of Asia. We estimate investment needs in water infrastructure to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to be in the range of US$120–330 billion/year until 2030, compared with current investment of US$40–50 billion/year. Closing this financing gap is not just a matter of spending more, but also spending with greater quality and efficiency considering competing national policy goals and the distinctive characteristics of water infrastructure that make its financing more challenging.

Pages: 895–914


Research Article

Water’s role in MDB regional development

James Horne

James Horne & Associates, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Contact: James Horne | Email: jbhorne5000@gmail.com


Managing scarce water resources has been central to the Murray–Darling Basin (MDB) regional development story. The article puts water into a broader context of key drivers in development in the MDB. In addition to water markets and water policy, key issues include climate change, the changing relative resilience and viability of urban centres, the role of government, the impact of technological change, underlying exogenously set commodity prices and exchange rates. All these factors have had a significant impact on development, some with little discussion but others, such as water, have been contested and bitterly fought over. The article also examines these drivers and how they might affect future development.

Pages: 915–938


Research Article

Pakistan’s representation of transboundary water as a security issue

Hanifeh Rigia and Jeroen F. Warnerb

aDepartment of International Relations, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran; bDepartment of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Contact: Jeroen F. Warner | Email: jeroenwarner@gmail.com


The South Asia region is one of the most unstable in the world, having experienced multiple wars. In recent years, water disputes have intensified between this region’s countries, including Pakistan and India, as water is intertwined with their security and has been securitized. Indeed, securitization is one of the strategies that has the power of representation of water as a security issue. The study examines how Pakistan has represented the Indus transboundary waters as a security issue through linguistic constructs, especially to motivate domestic audiences.

Pages: 939–962


Research Article

‘Water is politics everywhere’: the use of emphasis frames to communicate multilateral water development project

Aiste Klimasauskaite and Alon Tal

Department of Public Policy, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Contact: Aiste Klimasauskaite | Email: aistek@mail.tau.ac.il


Research implies that emphasis frames control preferences. Little is known, however, about how stakeholders frame water. How is water framed in decision-making and -shaping rooms? Therefore, we explore the Red Sea–Dead Sea Water Conveyance framing. We compile two data sets: (1) 18 in-depth interviews, archival data; and (2) 10 documents. For data analysis, we use qualitative and quantitative approaches – coding with Atlas.ti and text analysis with Voyant Tools. In the results, we juxtapose dominant and marginal frames, frequencies, and descriptive examples. Findings reveal which actors activate and spread salient frames, concealing pressing issues and sustaining old power structures.

Pages: 963–985


Research Article

Unsettling bureaucratic designs: inter-bureaucratic competition and patrimonialism in the pursuit of Thailand’s hydraulic mission

David J. H. Blake

Independent Researcher, Taunton, UK

Contact: David J. H. Blake | Email: djhblake@yahoo.co.uk


There appear to be relatively few studies examining the emergence and persistence of hydraulic bureaucracies (hydrocracies) in specific national contexts. This paper addresses this perceived lacuna by considering the case of the century-old Royal Irrigation Department (RID) in Thailand. Drawing upon the concept of ‘bureaucratic patrimonialism’, this paper seeks to disentangle some of the political economy issues surrounding the RID’s rise and prolonged national dominance. It pays special attention to inter-bureaucratic competition amid calls for water sector reform and how the RID has successfully negotiated these challenges through changing political regimes of the last century.

Pages: 986–1006



Water use efficiency: box ticking or a valid approach?

David Lloyd Owen

Envisager Ltd, Newcastle Emlyn, UK

Contact: David Lloyd Owen | Email: david@envisager.co.uk


Water-use efficiency (WUE) enables the comparison of the value generated from water between countries, industries and companies, and over time. Such comparisons can overlook crucial underlying differences. How can WUE be best used as a comparator? Increases in WUE assumed that water consumption has become decoupled from economic growth. This overlooks structural changes and globalization resulting in water-intensive activities being eased out of WUE reporting. Incomplete participation in corporate WUE surveys and the absence of external verification should also be considered. This paper explores ways of developing more valid WUE comparators and the value of WUE for investors concerned about water risk.

Pages: 1007–1015


Research Article

Community-driven disaster risk reduction: a case study of flood risk management in Brandon, MB, Canada

Etsuko Yasui and Brian A. Kayes

Department of Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies, Brandon University, Brandon, MB, Canada

Contact: Etsuko Yasui | Email: yasui@brandonu.ca


Recurrent disaster experiences can motivate communities to initiate risk management as part of their resilience mechanism if there is appropriate support to assist their shared commitment and goals. This scenario was evident in the City of Brandon’s (Manitoba, Canada) response to the 1-in-300-year high-water event during the spring of 2011. This study examined how this small prairie city/community achieved the creation and preservation of locally driven flood risk management practice, and the critical role of the Brandon Emergency Support Team (BEST), a community-based disaster risk management organization, in facilitating enhanced risk awareness towards protecting the city from flooding.

Pages: 1016–1038


Research Article

A system dynamics simulation model for water conflicts in the Zhanghe River Basin, China

Liang Yuana, Weijun Hea, Dagmawi Mulugeta Degefua,b, Zhongchi Wana, Thomas Stephen Ramseya and Xia Wua,c

aCollege of Economics and Management, China Three Gorges University, Yichang, China; bDepartment of Architecture Science, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada; cSchool of Law and Public Administration, China Three Gorges University, Yichang, China

Contact: Liang Yuan | Email: liangyuan@ctgu.edu.cn


This article presents a model that simulates the dynamics of water demand, water supply and the instability of water allocation schemes at the national river basin scale during water scarcity. The Zhanghe River Basin in China is used as a case study to demonstrate the model. The optimum solution, minimizing water allocation instability, allocated most of the river’s water to the downstream sub-basin, with most of the water assigned for downstream use allocated to Anyang city. The results show that the socioeconomic–environmental dynamics of the stakeholders in a water-sharing problem should be taken into account when allocating water.

Pages: 1039–1055