Open access paper published on groundwater governance


The paper 'Global governance principles for the sustainable development of groundwater resources', written by IGRAC PhD Research Fellow Kirstin I. Conti and UNESCO-IHE Professor Joyeeta Gupta, has been published in the journal 'International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics'. This paper is open access content and therefore freely available for the public. 


A normative framework for the governance of groundwater is emerging at the global level. However, existing analyses have not comprehensively covered all the governance texts that have a bearing on transboundary groundwater resources or looked at them from the perspective of sustainable groundwater governance. Therefore, this paper responds to the questions: What are the global governance texts (including international laws) applicable to groundwater resources; to which forms of the resource do they apply; which principles have been included over time; and what are the implications for sustainable development of groundwater resources now and in the future? The analysis highlights key groundwater concepts, discusses twelve global groundwater governance texts and the thirty principles therein, classifies the principles into ideal–typical categories based on the sustainable development concept; and assesses the gaps and conflicts between the principles and texts. The paper has three key findings. First, groundwater governance is rapidly evolving and there are a number of principles available to promote sustainable development. Second, however, these collective principles do not adequately address (a) the link with all water resources; (b) the potential impact of climate change on water resources; and (c) the impact of trade on equitable sharing of groundwater and protection of groundwater-related ecosystems. Third, to the extent that this collection of principles can contribute to sustainable development, they are inconsistently included in the legally binding groundwater governance texts. Therefore, much progress is needed to ensure a global normative framework that can guide the sustainable governance of groundwater resources.

About the journal

International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics is a peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary journal that focuses on the theoretical, methodological and practical dimensions of cooperative solutions to international environmental problems. The journal explores both formal legal agreements such as multilateral treaties, and less formal cooperative mechanisms such as ministerial declarations and producer-consumer agreements. The journal's scope encompasses a wide range of environmental and natural resource issues, including biosafety, biodiversity loss, climate change, desertification, forest conservation, ozone depletion, transboundary pollutant flows, and the management of marine and fresh-water resources. 

IGRAC and Groundwater Governance

Groundwater Governance is an emerging issue with an emerging, global community of practice. IGRAC is highly active in this community through its project work and internal initiatives. In the recent past, IGRAC has developed the Groundwater Serious Game for GroFutures, was involved in IW:LEARN and funded PhD level research for a project with Prof. Joyeeta Gupta of University of Amsterdam. This research resulted in the following publications: