Water Resources Management

, Volume 30, Issue 7, pp 2161–2177

A Comparative Analysis of Water Governance, Water Management, and Environmental Performance in River Basins


DOI: 10.1007/s11269-016-1276-z

Cite this article as:
Knieper, C. & Pahl-Wostl, C. Water Resour Manage (2016) 30: 2161. doi:10.1007/s11269-016-1276-z


River ecosystems are facing a diversity of threats in many parts of the world. To restore and preserve riverine environments, human societies have established water governance and management responses. However, the means by which a satisfactory environmental state can be achieved in light of different regional contexts is still poorly understood. This article explores whether or not good environmental performance can be achieved through water governance and management in combination with further context factors. To this end, we applied fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis to examine data on water governance, water management, and environmental performance from a recent international study together with context data on per capita income, corruption, hydro-climate, and use pressure from other datasets. Results demonstrate that the combination of polycentric governance, high per capita income, and low levels of corruption is sufficient for achieving good water management practice. However, a good environmental state in river basins seems to primarily depend upon the overall level of pressure from human use rather than the quality of water management. This demonstrates that water governance and management should be seen as part of a broader societal transformation towards sustainability that focusses on a reduction of pressures in river basins instead of mitigating their impacts.


Polycentric water governance Water management Fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) River basins Environmental state 

Supplementary material

11269_2016_1276_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (588 kb)
ESM 1(PDF 588 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Systems ResearchOsnabrück UniversityOsnabrückGermany

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