IGRAC PhD Researcher Kirstin Conti published Article in 'Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability'


The article 'Protected by pluralism? Grappling with multiple legal frameworks in groundwater governance' written by Ms. Kirstin I. Conti and Prof. Joyeeta Gupta has been published in the scientific journal 'Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.' The article is in its special issue on sustainability science - legal pluralism and deals the consequences of legal pluralism for groundwater access, allocation and sustainability. Kirstin Conti is PhD Researcher at IGRAC and Joyeeta Gupta is Professor of Environment and Development in the Global South at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and UNESCO-IHE

Protected by pluralism? Grappling with multiple legal frameworks in groundwater governance

Note: The following text is abstracted from the article

"Groundwater constitutes approximately 97% of the world's non-frozen freshwater resources. Every country has groundwater and there are 608 transboundary aquifers. Over half of the world's population uses groundwater for its daily needs and over 40% of agriculture is irrigated by groundwater. Groundwater sustains groundwater dependent ecosystems and buffers against climate change and variability. However, groundwater governance is sporadic and disjointed. Therefore, in this article it is examined through the lens of legal pluralism.


Current literature is reviewed and norms for groundwater governance are presented at each geographic level along with American, European, Asian and African examples. This is a new exploration of legal pluralism and its consequences for groundwater access, allocation and sustainability. It shows that challenges regarding scope, jurisdiction and application of norms manifest themselves in legal-plural regimes with differing consequences: groundwater degradation and problems of access and allocation on the one hand and improved, coherent governance structures on the other."


  • Legal pluralism sometimes contributes to groundwater depletion or user conflicts.
  • In other instances pluralism can lead to improved, coherent governance structures.
  • Scope/jurisdiction issues are often indifferent or accommodating.
  • Sovereignty/access/allocation issues tend to compete.
  • Several norms are supported mutually in formal laws, but sometimes lack enforcement.