Highlights from Water Security and Federal Rivers workshop

Federal Rivers workshop participants

Federalism has increasing international significance for water security. A global workshop gathered 35 delegates from 12 countries to exchange lessons learned from water reforms to manage water-related risks and conflicts in federal rivers.

Highlights included the development of a common research framework and set of case studies anchored in the insights about river basin management and federalism from public policy, economics, history and complexity science.

A keynote presentation by Dr Jerry Delli Priscoli of the US Army Corps of Engineers chronicled the history and models of river basin management in the US – the world’s oldest federation – to demonstrate the elusive quest for integrated strategies and the significant potential for solutions matched to local and regional circumstances.

Case studies across the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia highlighted the extent and diversity of federal rivers facing common challenges in different contexts, identifying alternative pathways to share risks and manage conflicts.

The workshop culminated with a preliminary synthesis and comparative reflections by George Anderson, President Emeritus of the Forum of Federations, who noted the need to learn from both success and failure: “while some federations have succeeded in putting in place river basins authorities and achieving integrated management, the story more generally is one of failure.” He observed that states often address water conflicts until they become salient enough to trigger federal intervention.

The initial workshop outcomes include a briefing paper and an edited book volume released in 2013 based on chapters presented during the workshop. A global hub on federal rivers will be established at the Global Water Forum in summer 2012 to provide a platform for long range collaboration and comparative research.

Australian National University sponsored the workshop with support from the Forum of Federations. The workshop was organised by Dr Dustin Garrick (Oxford), Drs Daniel Connell and Jamie Pittock (Australian National University) and George Anderson (President Emeritus, Forum of Federations).