News & Events


International WaTERS research and training network

The Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia is proud to be a member of the recently created International WaTERS (Water-related Training Education and Research in the global South) research and training network.  International WaTERS will promote networking and collaboration among researchers working on water related issues, particularly water governance issues in contexts of the global South.  The network will also engage in training and development of graduate students and promote interdisciplinary research.

The International WaTERS considers water governance one of the most critical global issues for the 21st century. The network will advance the understanding water resilience and security in the face of increasing climatic and hydrologic variability including the governance, socio-institutional, and equity dimensions of this challenge.

International WaTERS is made up of academics and practitioners from diverse backgrounds and institutions. Partners include; Leila Harris (Program on Water Governance and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia), Karen Bakker (Program on Water Governance and Geography, University of British Columbia), Karen Brown (Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, University of Minnesota), Michelle Kooy (UNESCO-IHE), Rutgerd Boelens (Wageningen University), Justicia Hidrica (Wageningen University), Jacqueline Goldin (University of Western Cape, South Africa), Anjal Prakash (SaciWaters India, Lawrence Baker (Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, University of Minnesota), Mark Johnson (Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia), Gerardo Damonte (Pontifical Catholic University of Peru), Frances Cleaver (King’s College London, UK), Marwan Hassan (Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, UBC), Farhana Sultana (Syracuse University, New York), Gert Jan Veldwisch (Water Equity Network and Wageningen University), Margreet Zwaterveen (UNESCO-IHE), Shiney Varghese (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy), Michael Goldman (University of Minnesota), Nikhil Anand (University of Minnesota).

The International WaTERS network is funded in part by a $200,000 SSHRC Partnership Development Grant.  Partnership Development Grants provide support to “develop research in the social sciences and humanities, including knowledge mobilization and the meaningful involvement of students and new scholars, by fostering new partnerships for research and related activities involving existing and/or potential partners; or design and test new partnership approaches for research and/or related activities that may result in best practices or models that either can be adapted by others or have the potential to be scaled up to a regional, national or international level.”

We will be reporting on the progress of the Network as things develop.  At this stage, congratulations to the team and please take note of the Network website,

If you wish to subscribe to the International WaTERS email list, to receive newsletters and other news, write to internationalwatersubc [at]

Small systems, big challenges: Review of small drinking water system governance.


Small drinking water systems (SDWS) are widely identified as presenting particular challenges for drinking water management and governance in industrialised nations because of their small customer base, geographic isolation, and limited human and financial capacity. Consequently, an increasing number and range of scholars have examined SDWS over the last 30 years. Much of this work has been technocentric in nature, focused on SDWS technologies and operations, with limited attention to how these systems are managed, governed, and situated within broader social and political–economic contexts. This review seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the governance dimensions of SDWS by drawing together existing literature relating to SDWS governance and exploring its key themes, research foci, and emerging directions. This overview is intended to provide guidance to scholars and practitioners interested in specific aspects of SDWS governance and a baseline against which researchers can position future work. The review identified 117 academic articles published in English-language journals between 1990 and 2016 that referred to some aspect of drinking water governance in small, rural, and Indigenous communities in industrialised nations. The articles’ content and bibliographic information were analysed to identify the locations, methods, journals, and themes included in research on SDWS governance. Further analysis of SDWS’ governance dimensions is organised around four questions identified as central to SDWS research: what governance challenges are experienced by SDWS, and what are their causes, solutions, and effects? Overall, the review revealed that the SDWS governance literature is piecemeal and fragmented, with few attempts to theorise SDWS governance or to engage in interdisciplinary, cross-jurisdictional conversations. The majority of articles examine North American SDWS, retain a technocratic orientation to drinking water governance, and are published in technical or industry journals. Such research tends to focus on the governance challenges SDWS face and proposed solutions to systems’ performance, capacity, and regulatory challenges. A small but growing number of studies examine the causal factors underpinning these governance challenges and their socio-spatially differentiated impacts on communities. Looking forward, the review argues for a more holistic, integrative approach to research on SDWS governance, building on a water governance framework.

Keywords: Small Water Systems, Drinking Water, Governance, Rural, Indigenous, Literature Review 

Free Download (limited quantities):

McFarlane, K. and L. Harris (2018). “Small systems, big challenges: Review of small drinking water system governance.”Environmental Reviews.



Torio C, P.(2018). Leveling the playing field for metro Manila’s impoverished households. Water Policy 20(3)


Metro Manila’s water privatization is one of the world’s largest and longest-running privatization programs for a water utility. While traditional efficiency metrics show significantly improved service levels under this schema, local anti-privatization activists maintain that the program does not benefit the urban poor. Assessments from an equity lens offer a fresh perspective, using information from a consumer survey of 53,733 residential households, privatization reports, and field interviews. Results show that access and affordability remain critical concerns for impoverished urban households despite major service improvements. Philippine policy makers must address these twin concerns in order to ensure a level playing field for these vulnerable households.



We are pleased to announce the final version of Hybrid regulatory landscapes: the human right to water, variegated neoliberal water governance, and policy transfer in Cape Town, South Africa, and Accra, Ghana is now available online.

Yates, J., Harris, L.M. (2018). Hybrid regulatory landscapes: the human right to water, variegated neoliberal water governance, and policy transfer in Cape Town, South Africa, and Accra, Ghana. World Development 110: 75-87