Governance, Democracy and Sustainable Development

Governance, Democracy and Sustainable Development

Moving Beyond the Impasse

Edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud

The contributors explore the difficulties developed countries are experiencing in coming to terms with environmental limits and the resultant challenges to the democratic polity. They engage with different dimensions of the governance challenge including norms, public attitudes, citizen engagement, political conflict, policy design, and implementation, and with a range of environmental problems such as climate change, biodiversity/nature protection, and water management. The book concludes with an essay by William Lafferty that explores the flawed character of the contemporary democratic polity and offers his reflections on possible pathways to reform.

Chapter 3: Trends, drivers and dilemmas in the transition towards sustainable water management

Frans H.J.M. Coenen and Hans T.A. Bressers

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, public policy, regulation and governance


In recent years we have heard a lot about ‘new’ approaches to water management. Opinion leaders have heralded a new water culture (Arrojo et al. 2005), research projects and legislation are labelled as new, as are policy frameworks such as the European Union Water Framework Directive. All this suggests some break with the past, along with a transition from ‘old’ to ‘new’ policies and approaches. Yet the question remains whether this change helps us move beyond past obstacles in water management, or whether new interdependencies are fostered which create inertia that is becoming even more difficult to overcome. This is a continuing dilemma in water management. Lafferty (Lafferty and Hovden 2002; Lafferty 2002) argues that integration is key to sustainable development, and integration is exactly what the new water management seeks to promote. But without careful management, integration could also become part of the problem. A resolution can probably be found in adaptive strategies that span sectors and involve multiple actors, promote an enabling rather than a controlling mode of governance and provide enough flexibility for adaptive management (de Boer and Bressers 2011).

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