Water governance: collaboration, compliance and enforcement

Fresh water is essential for the environment, our food security and economic production. Yet, we face a water crisis. In an effort to respond to this challenge, governments and communities across the globe have been experimenting with different water governance reforms. These reforms vary in their focus (e.g. groundwater, surface water, conjunctive management) and tools (e.g. markets, regulation and integrated water resource management). A sizeable body of work has begun to examine these tools, particularly the effectiveness of markets. However, far less attention has been given to collaborative approaches and the implementation and enforcement of regulation.

CWI is currently undertaking two Australian Research Council funded projects that examine the issues of collaboration and regulation. A PhD being completed at UNSW Law on Groundwater Governance complements this research.

Personnel and partners

  • Dr Cameron Holley, CWI, UNSW Law
  • Darren Sinclair, Research Fellow, ANU
  • Dr Susan Pucci, NSW Office of Water
  • Professor Neil Gunningham, RegNet, ANU
  • Gabriela Cuadrado-Quesada, UNSW Law

Project 1: Revitalising collaborative water governance: lessons from water planning in Australia

One of Australia’s greatest challenges is managing its scarce water resources. However, fundamental flaws in the design and implementation of collaborative water governance have undermined Australia’s water reforms.

This project critically evaluates collaborative water planning in different Australian states. The results will provide legal and policy prescriptions to reshape water strategy, ensure meaningful collaborative community engagement and effectively and efficiently reduce the over-allocation and overuse of surface water and ground water in Australia.

The project also investigates the wider challenges collaborative water governance poses for the theory and practice of water regulation, markets and water governance more generally.

The research is funded by a three-year Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award held by Cameron Holley at UNSW Law. 

The project builds on Cameron’s past collaborative governance work in the context of water quality and regional natural resource management (Holley et al 2011).

Project Publications

  • Cameron Holley and Andrew Lawson, ‘Implementing environmental law and collaborative governance’ in Paul Martin and Amanda Kennedy (eds) Implementation (forthcoming 2014/2015, Edward Elgar)

Related Publications

  • Cameron Holley and Darren Sinclair, 'Deliberative Participation, Environmental Law and Collaborative Governance: insights from Surface and Groundwater Studies' (2013) 30(1) Environmental and Planning Law Journal 32-55

Project 2: Compliance and enforcement of non-urban water extraction in New South Wales

Without effective compliance and enforcement, it will be impossible to meet the aspirations of Australia’s water initiatives.

As governments embark upon major national compliance and enforcement reforms, this study will be the first to partner with a key water regulator (the NSW Office of Water) to critically evaluate compliance and enforcement in practice.

The project will examine the strategies, motivations and characteristics of regulators and the regulated community, and identify the best way to regulate non-urban water users to deliver effective, efficient and politically acceptable outcomes. The project will also examine when compliance and enforcement best fits with markets and collaboration, and identify the broader implications for empirically based regulatory theory.

The project builds on and expands existing research relationships with Darren Sinclair and Neil Gunningham at ANU and Susan Pucci at the NSW Office of Water regarding thier historic water enforcement practices.

Project Publications

Related Publications

  • Cameron Holley and Darren Sinclair, 'Compliance and Enforcement of Water Licences in NSW: Limitations in Law, Policy and Institutions' (2012) 15(2) Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy 149-189

Groundwater Governance

These projects are completed by Gabriela Cuadrado-Quesada at UNSW Law. Gabriela is a PhD student at UNSW Law and researches how legal instruments can best achieve sustainable use, participation, collaboration and accountability in groundwater governance.