The Water Governance Scorecard: Identifying How to Make Water More Accessible for Agricultural Use

Water governance is the set of social relations, or system, that determines who gets what water/services, when and how. ‘Good governance’ is thus crucial for improving access to water and sanitation services.

How societies choose to govern their water resources and services has profound impacts on people’s livelihood and the sustainability of water resources. Access to water is, for many people, a matter of daily survival, or can help to break the vicious circle of poverty. Improving water governance is therefore essential to alleviating global poverty.

Water governance refers to the political, social, economic and administrative systems in place that influence water’s use and management. Essentially, who gets what water, when and how, and who has the right to water and related services, and their benefits. It determines the equity and efficiency in water resource and services allocation and distribution, and balances water use between socio-economic activities and ecosystems.

Governing water includes formulation, establishment and implementation of water policies, legislation and institutions, and clarification of the roles and responsibilities of government, civil society and the private sector in relation water resources and services. The outcomes depend on how the stakeholders act in relation to the rules and roles that have been taken or assigned to them.

The water sector is a part of broader social, political and economic developments and is thus also affected by decisions by actors outside of the water sector.

The Challenge

Water and sanitation development often focus heavily on infrastructure investments, overlooking the importance of also investing in the capacities and institutions at national, regional and local level responsible for delivery, governance and maintenance of the services. As a result, infrastructure solutions are underutilized, poorly managed and unsustainable. Water and sanitation services also often fail to reach poor and marginalized groups, hence democratization of the governance processes through increased participation, transparency and accountability is key.

Integrity & accountabilityCorruption remains one of more malignant challenges in relation to water resources and services. Governments, bilateral and multilateral organizations have tacitly accepted corruption in the way water is governed. Research and case studies increasingly demonstrate the extent to which corrupt practices are detrimental to sustainable water use and service provision, by diverting financial resources and skewing decisions away from addressing collective concerns. Corruption ultimately limits the scope for improving poor people’s livelihood opportunities.

Poor resource management, corruption, inappropriate institutional arrangements, bureaucratic inertia, insufficient human capacity and shortages of finances for investments also undermine the effective governance of water in many places around the world. These are also the challenges to be addressed by governance reforms.

The Strategy

NEWAS advocates for more efficient, equitable and environmentally sustainable governance of water resources, and water supply and sanitation in low- and middle income countries.

NEWAS works to reduce mismanagement and corruption through promoting integrity, transparency and accountability within and between governments, civil society organizations and private companies.

NEWAS helps clients and partners take the crucial step from policy formulation and planning to effective implementation. This includes targeted support in important aspects of reform, such as decentralisation, multi-stakeholder participation, river basin management, coordination and integration processes, and gender equity.

NEWAS supports clients and partners to manage water resources and provide water supply and sanitation services more efficiently, equitably and sustainably through:

  • Policy and technical advice on governance reform and implementation at local, national and river basin levels
  • Developing and applying tailored knowledge, tools and methodologies
  • Documenting and sharing examples of good practices
  • Monitoring and assessment at national, regional and international levels.