Dialogue on Water Governance 2015, 23rd to 26th of November – Fortaleza, Brazil

The Dialogue on Water Governance (DWG) 2015 focused around two central issues in water governance: equity and water security, pertaining to semi-arid regions in both developed and developing countries. The aims were:

  • To create robust dialogue related to water governance;
  • To define and frame the level and context of issues in the local and international debates;
  • To raise the level of awareness and discussions at the local and international levels to mobilize partnerships in order to develop comprehensive research programmes covering different aspects of water governance;
  • To serve as a platform of experts for a Regional Consultation on Water Security conducted by the UN-Water Task Force on Water Security for the Latin American and Caribbean region.

The Dialogue was made up of six (6) thematic seminars covering the following aspects:

1 National development planning and institutional reforms needed for a
water-secure future
2 The role of water pricing in achieving equity and water security
3 Sustaining environmental flows for water, food, and energy security
4 Equity and water tenure in water allocations
5 Water security and regional cooperation
6 Capacity development and networks for improved governance leading to
water-energy-food security



Seminar 1; National planning and optimized water allocations

  • Highlights
  1. Debate how the allocation of water can be optimised to meet the socio-economic needs of the country.
  2. some hard choices and considerations for reallocating water to those sectors that yield the greatest benefit to the country.
  3. It is acknowledged that these decisions should ideally be made by water users at basin scale but given the relative capacity of water users, it is unlikely that significant allocation reform can be driven at that level. Hence it is pertinent to look at the ideal scale for such macro-plans and for national priorities to be identified.
  4. countries cannot continue to augment water resources perpetually and despite the recent focus on demand side management; there is still a very strong supply side mentality that permeates through.
  5. Administrative law comparative studies
  • Conclusions

Recommendations for semi arid countries

Seminar 2; water pricing

  • Highlights
  1. Water as a public good doesnot have a price; charges are for managing the resource and providing a service
  2. Water is priceless, we can never capture the entire value of water in monetary terms. A price on water can fill a limited function in water management, but we need to combine the price of water with other kinds of management instruments to make sure that there are not negative impacts on the environment or on marginalized and poor groups in society.
  3. The economic, the political and the practical perspectives on water pricing may lead to very different actions. For example, for political reasons the willingness to charge, may be lower than the willingness to pay.
  • Conclusions
  1. Water pricing is a complex topic that can fill several functions in water resources management. Make sure to be clear on the objectives of water prices and avoid trying to achieve multiple objectives with a single policy instrument. If different objectives are aspired, a combination of different instruments (both economic and non-economic) is needed.
  2. A good start for successful water pricing reforms is to increase transparency and participation in the process, in order to build trust that money paid for water will be used in a sensible way.
  3. When aiming to address inequalities through water sector policies, both affordability and financial sustainability of water supply and sanitation services needs to be ensured, as well as enforcement of pollution prevention and maintenance of freshwater ecosystem services.

Seminar 3; water tenure

  • Highlights
    1. the study of water tenure (‘relationships between people and water resources’) can be useful in highlighting patterns of actual water use and the policy and legal framework that drive such use.
    2. Brings all uses on the table – non-judgamental/normative Legitimizes study issues: A distinct advantage of the water tenure concept is to legitimize the study of ‘fringe’ issues – e.g., the political economy of water or misuse of state power – by making them central to the study of water tenure.
    3. Benefits could include Taking more explicit account of the ‘informal ‘ – laws, regulations & procedures
    4. Designing a more practical regulatory instrument to protect water rights on the ground – hence, more equity – so more willingness to invest in land?
    5. Better alignment of land and water tenure, A practical methodology to track changes in ‘the relationships of people and water’ – and its impact on water stress
    6. A way of identifying actual and potential conflicts (before they worsen!)
    7. Understand the notion of ‘water tenure’ (understood as ‘the relationships between water and people’)
    8. the ability of stakeholders to use such analysis to confront decision-makers,
    9. the willingness of the ‘governance establishment’ to listen and reform
    10. Vulnerable women and men commonly assume de facto roles in informal water services provision
  • Recommendations
    1. Flexible and Negotiated Institutional Approaches NOT Blueprint
    2. Institutional Bricolage NOT Design
    3. Need to address outstanding concerns about traditional system legitimacy
    4. There could be a significant role for a water tenure concept to address water rights as a collective recognising water governance needs whilst recognising prevailing sensitivities regarding SA’s historical political economy and its legacy.

Seminar 4; Environmental Flows

  • Highlights
  1. How to implement environmental flows: despite clear laws the process is very political as pre- existing users generally lose water.
  2. The key issue is that there is lack of understanding that environmental water is not waste water but it is part of preserving our biosphere.
  • Conclusions
  1. Consider Scientific uncertainty. We can never have enough scientific data so we need to make a decision and apply the precautionary principle. We have to use good enough data but it must be administered well.
  2. It is important administrative systems need to improve in all domains to eliminate corruption and political influences
  3. Water markets only work in the context where the environment is protected first. Australia does this with its consumptive pool concept. The general law needs to be strong if water markets are proposed.
  4. it is best to have national guidelines but to have these administered by agencies that can be held to account.
  5. An emergency such as a drought can provoke good change and build community acceptance
  6. People need to be really involved in regional water plans.

Seminar 5; water security and international cooperation

  • Highlights
  1. The water security as a aim and the water management as the path
  2. The world is more globalized and with less money, specially in Latin America with the fall of the petroleum
  3. Climate change posses an extra layer of complexity
  • Conclusions
  1. At institutional level, there is a need to reconcile administrative boundaries with the water management basin boundaries
  2. Non state actors have better adaptive and response capacity to deal with WS and they have more knowledge on local or regional

Seminar 6: capacity building and professional networks

  • Highlights
  1. The SDGs will not be met if capacities to implement, monitor and report are not in place
  2. water professionals and decision makers of the future need to be challenged by innovative capacity development methods
  • Conclusions
  1. Explore possibilities to improve south/south and South/North learning and networking for capacity development
  2. Understand Capacity development as encompassing teaching, institutional development, education and training, and improving individuals’ rights. It is imperative to identify and address the capacities needed in a coordinated effort to meet the SDGs and link to management performance
  3. Realize the Opportunities offered by new technologies for virtual learning and learning by doing need to be further explored



  • Great accolades to the hosts who managed to attract 55 highly specialized and experienced professionals from 36 countries
  • Sharing knowledge and experiences from different countries highlighted many similarities specially when dealing with equity in water scarce situations to achieving water security
  • The participation of the media added a good reality check to the whole discussions
  • Science interaction with policies lead to better decision making
  • raise the level of awareness and discussions at the local and international levels to mobilize partnerships in order to develop comprehensive research programmes covering different aspects of water governance;
  • Provided a platform of experts for a Regional Consultation on Water Security conducted by the UN-Water Task Force on Water Security for the Latin American and Caribbean region.


Role of research Governance priorities
The R&D community has an important contribution to make to steer our countries towards five strategic water-security goals:

Good and well maintained water infrastructure

Smart, highly-aware water users

A sustained pool of highly talented people managing and maintaining the system

Good partnerships with academic and research entities

High investments in knowledge-based solutions


Water supply

Increase ability to make use of more sources of water, including alternatives

Improve governance, planning and management of supply and delivery

Improve adequacy and performance of supply infrastructure

Run water as a financially sustainable “business” by improving operational performance


Water demand

Improve governance, planning, and management of demand and use

Reduce losses and increase efficiency of productive use

Improve performance of pricing, monitoring, billing, metering and collection



Next steps– Adding Conflict resolution measures for the 2017 Dialogue on Water Governance

  • Publish a book and/or special issue from the seminars
  • All presentations and proceedings will be available at http://watergovernance2015.iwrn.org
  • In the world Café, numerous project ideas were discussed
  • Continue the dialogue in upcoming events; WWW, IWA, etc
  • Plan for a follow on conference on Governance with a focus on Conflict resolution in Adelaide October/ November 2017
  • Make inputs at the WWF in 2018
  • More participation by the Youth; involve the Young Water Professionals
  • Initial discussions for bilateral cooperation between WRC and ANA
  • Establish a BRICS water governance think tank
  • Involve participants in the Water Pricing CoP initiative of SIWI and WRC
  • Stockholm Water Week 2016 -Workshop on Water Governance exploring Water Governance in Sustainable Development. It will draw on the Themes from this DWG and focus on Values and Conflict resolution measures.
  • 3rd Dialogue on Water Governance in Adelaide in 2017 on these themes with Asia Pacific participation.
  • Leading to a presence in World Water Forum in Brazil in 2018