Water Security and Federal Rivers Workshop 2012

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

Download programme.

Download briefing paper: Water Security and Federal Rivers
Dustin Garrick, Oxford University; Daniel Connell, ANU; and Jamie Pittock, ANU.

Context and Motivation

The ‘death’ of stationarity means water managers can no longer presume that the climate fluctuates within a ‘known envelope of variability’. Water security frames the societal challenge of development and adaptation in a post-stationary world. Water security refers to the i) availability of water for human development and ecological health and ii) capacity to manage risks and tradeoffs in response to climatic variability, climate change and extreme events. Hydroclimatic risks include threats to people and ecosystems posed by prolonged drought, unpredictable flooding events and systemic (e.g. upstream/ downstream) tradeoffs.

Political borders can impede adaptation to climate risks and water insecurity that span multiple jurisdictions. Federal systems are a special category of transboundary rivers with increasing global significance. Federalism has taken root in more than 28 countries encompassing over forty percent of the world’s population. The spread of federalism extends further through international river basins shared between federal countries and unitary states, such as the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates. Increasingly, multi-lateral regional organisations are being strengthened and have federation-like institutions for governing shared rivers, such as the European Union with its Water Framework Directive and the Southern African Development Community’s protocol on shared rivers. Climate risks traverse multiple scales and jurisdictions, requiring coordinated action to share risks and make tradeoffs.

Workshop Format

This workshop will develop a research framework and set of case studies about water security, river basin governance and federal rivers. Participants will exchange lessons and assess the effectiveness of river basin adaptation to hydroclimatic risks – droughts, unpredictable floods and systemic upstream-downstream tradeoffs – within federal systems confronting institutional fragmentation and overlap. There are significant gaps in the evidence base about federal rivers and water security, although this challenge is hardly new in long established federations, such as the US and Australia. These gaps have become more pressing due to the diffusion of federalism across diverse geographic regions with unique economic, political and environmental challenges.

Twenty participants from 13 countries and the European Union will convene to share lessons about river basin governance, climate variability and water insecurity in the world’s federal rivers. Academics and practitioners will apply public policy and economic analytical frameworks to share insights at the river and country level. Frameworks include: federalism theory, polycentric governance, public economies, fiscal federalism, and the politics of scale. The workshop addresses these issues through book chapter contributions from invited participants and respondents to an open call. Presentations and panels will give authors an opportunity to solicit feedback and explore potential for integrative and comparative studies on crosscutting themes. Students will present poster presentations. The outcomes of the workshop will also feed into a policy brief and a special panel session during the international conference Water Security, Risk and Society on 16-18 April.


Contact details are given on the programme, or contact:

Dr Dustin Garrick
Researcher, Water Security.

E: dustin.garrick@ouce.ox.ac.uk
T: +44 (0)1865 285185