By the end of the 21st century nearly half of the global population will live in extreme water scarcity. While environmental degradation and climate change exacerbate scarcity, the biggest challenge in ensuring water remains accessible for future generations is a challenge of governance. While this sentiment has been explicated time and again, a lack of in-depth, case by case understanding of which modes of governance are dominant in water governance remains. To aid in filling this gap in scientific knowledge, this inquiry set out to qualitatively determine which of the three dominant theories of governance, namely hierarchical, marketbased, and network-based governance, most aptly explains the mode of water governance in California and Northwest Florida respectively. A coding scheme derived from similar qualitative categorization efforts was utilized. The evaluation found that rather than representing a single theory, or a hybrid combination of theories, the cases could only be understood as wholly singular iterations of a contextually determined synthesis of different theoretical components, consequently constructing a truly individual governance mode that cannot be empirically generalized. This implies that rather than striving for the determination of generalizable categories, which is what scholarship has hitherto attempted, efforts ought to be directed towards the establishment of an in-depth understanding of singular governance modes in individual cases and focus on establishing a methodology to qualitatively link individual governance systems to water management effectiveness. This will enable future research to comprehend how the individual contingent environment and context specific factors are essential to governance systems and consequently how water governance systems, through respecting their unique constitution, can rise to the occasion and ensure sustainable water management for future generations.

Prof.dr. Darren McCauley, Dr. Adria Albareda Sanz
Public Administration
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Victor Hijzen. (2022, June 30). The Ebbs and Flows of Water Governance. Public Administration. Retrieved from