Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

David Earnest

Committee Member

Kurt Gaubatz

Committee Member

Glen Sussman


As part of its Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations acknowledges that solving the world's water woes requires giving one billion additional people access to safe and affordable drinking water, while also noting that this is a difficult goal to achieve considering present environmental challenges. Amidst this atmosphere of vanishing freshwater, the legislative policy community has begun to encourage diverse discourse on the topic of efficient resource management, but the form and function of such a solution present unique political and theoretical challenges for policymakers and scholars alike. The current consensus among water managers is that a multifaceted policy framework known as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is the most viable strategy for conserving freshwater resources, and as such, it provides a proactive solution for mitigating future bouts of water scarcity. There is a puzzling disparity in IWRM implementation, however, as developed states have experienced more success with the policy than states within the developing world. IWRM's policy framework establishes a set of concrete goals for water use, including effective demand management, the encouragement of "a water-oriented civil society," transparency in the policy creation process, conflict resolution guidelines regarding regional and international water issues, equitable access to water resources, the decentralization of water policy, and the privatization of water provision. Drawing from scholarship on the efficacy of spontaneous, negotiated, and imposed environmental policy regimes, this thesis considers the German, Indian, Canadian, and South African IWRM implementation experiences from the perspectives of the theoretical literatures on regimes, common-pool resources/public goods, privatization, and constructivist arguments about the development and diffusion of transnational human rights norms. While all the literatures prove useful at explaining various facets of the implementation puzzle, it is the scholarship on regimes that offers the most robust explanation of the problem at hand by highlighting the importance of a linear sequence of environmental regime creation, the integration of both decentralized and centralized water governance mechanisms, and the extant character of a region's previous water management regimes as central components that help to explain disparate levels of IWRM implementation success.


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