Sustainability Science

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 1155–1166 | Cite as

Hydro-social arrangements and paradigmatic change in water governance: an analysis of the sustainable development goals (SDGs)

  • Viviana WieglebEmail author
  • Antje Bruns
Case Report
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sustainability Transitions, Management, and Governance


SDG 6 presents a global water agenda and an important opportunity to steer development trajectories towards a water-secure world. Based on semi-structured interviews and a political ecology perspective, this study takes water and SDG 6 as a focal point to analyze the shift from MDGs to SDGs in terms of underlying governance paradigms and policy change dynamics. Results indicate that the water-related SDG constitutes an important shift of UN policies in the realms of development cooperation and sustainable development policies by merging these two strands. While the MDGs were largely framed in line with conventional governance and management approaches, SDG 6 portrays a more holistic and inclusive agenda, which is also reflected in actor arrangement changing within the international water community. Nevertheless, ‘state-hydraulic paradigm’ approaches are still prevalent within Goal 6 and current implementation. To stimulate a more fundamental paradigm change towards a socio-hydrological perspective, the analysis suggests to acknowledge the wider political environment of water challenges.


SDGs Water governance Policy and paradigm change Hydro-social cycle 



This research has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the reference number 01 LN 1316 A. We would like to thank all members of the Governance and Sustainability Lab at Trier University who commented on earlier versions of this article as well as two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. We would also like to thank all our interview partners who voluntarily shared their time and knowledge to make this research possible.

Supplementary material

11625_2017_518_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 28 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Governance and Sustainability Lab, Faculty of Regional and Environmental SciencesTrier UniversityTrierGermany

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