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In many places, water resources are at risk because different types of use are not sufficiently coordinated. The project “Increasing Good Governance for Achieving the Objectives of Integrated Water Resources Management” (Erhöhung der STEuerungskompetenz zur ERreichung der Ziele eines integrierten Wassermanagements, STEER) explores innovative forms of coordination and cooperation in order to solve such conflicts of use. The focus is on a diagnostic approach, which can be used to investigate typical problem situations and to develop suitable solution strategies.
About the STEER Project
Water is a valuable resource for many users, such as agriculture, the energy sector or private households. If different uses of water and related land resources are not coordinated effectively, the availability of water or its quality can degrade so severely that certain types of use are restrained and ecosystems are impaired. In order to solve this problem, the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has become popular over the past two decades. It aims to harmonise the demands of different users and types of use. In practice, however, the implementation of IWRM is facing major challenges. Among other things, many problems have proved too complex to be solved from a predominantly water-centred perspective. A deeper integration of the objectives of water, energy and food security is therefore necessary to improve cross-sectoral governance and reduce conflicts of uses.
This is where the research project STEER starts. Its goal is to find innovative ways to increase good governance to solve complex water resources problems. New forms of coordination and cooperation are at the centre of interest. STEER examines the influence of the governance and management system on the solution of complex water resource problems. The impact of societal and environmental conditions is also examined to find out under which circumstances elements of effective governance systems can be transferred. On the basis of these analyses, STEER will develop solution strategies for current usage conflicts around water resources.
What is special about STEER is the intended development of a diagnostic approach. Such an approach identifies promising solution strategies based on similar problem situations characterized by characteristic features. The diagnostic approach makes it possible to adapt and transfer solution strategies for similar contexts.
The systematic involvement of stakeholders plays an important role in STEER. In in-depth case studies with different conditions (Weser-Ems, Emscher, Guadalquivir, Khaara and uMgeni), the project will investigate how certain factors (e.g. ,organizational structures, legal requirements, environmental conditions) affect the effectiveness of coordination and cooperation and thus the success of IWRM. The perspectives of local actors should also be considered. Innovative approaches (for example using the concept of ecosystem services) are to be developed and, if possible, tested in the in-depth case studies. Recognised findings are to be examined in a comparative analysis with further case studies. This allows the identification of factors which, in combination, result in good cross-sectoral governance. On the basis of the research results, STEER will develop a diagnostic toolbox. It will provide insights of the project for users from practice and science. In addition to tools for the analysis of complex water resources problems, the toolbox will also provide tools for the development of solution strategies.
At a scientific level, STEER makes an important contribution to the further development and application of diagnostic approaches in water governance research. The project is helping to reduce conflicts of uses between different sectors and to create synergies to manage water resources more proactively and more sustainably. In selected regions, STEER strives to establish exemplary agreements between local actors in order to resolve existing coordination deficits. At the international level, STEER contributes to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6.5 on the global implementation of IWRM. Target groups for the results of the project are regional actors from the water sector (e.g., water boards, river basin organisations), national ministries and authorities responsible for water resources, as well as international organisations committed to sustainable management of water and land resources. In order to improve the interface between science ans policy/practice, representatives of important international user groups will provide advice to the project throughout its duration.
After the project end, an ongoing further development of the diagnostic toolbox within the framework of the “Sustainable Water Future Program” (SWFP) is planned.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the STEER project within the scope of the funding measure “Globale Ressource Wasser” (GRoW).