Delegated Water Governance

Nowlan, L. and K. Bakker. (August 2010). Practising Shared Water Governance in Canada: A Primer. Vancouver, BC: Program on Water Governance.

In Canada, governments have historically had the sole responsibility for making the decisions on water quality and quantity. Yet the convergence of a number of trends—greater public expectation of participation, diminished government resources, the realization that expertise is found in many quarters, the increasing complexity of coordinating different levels of government, industries and nonprofit bodies—point to a new way of making decisions about resources such as water, involving a much broader spectrum of groups beyond bureaucrats. While this phenomenon is known by a variety of names, this Primer uses the term “shared governance” to describe it.

This Primer examines some of the benefits and pitfalls of this new way of making decisions about water, identifies five key  characteristics of shared water governance, and provides some practical lessons for governments interested in designing new shared (or delegated) governance structures. The document is addressed particularly to water managers and policy-makers, as well as those participating in shared water governance initiatives.


Nowlan, L. and K. Bakker. (November 2007). Delegating Water Governance: Issues and Challenges in the BC Context.

This report on evolving approaches to water governance in Canada, focusing on BC, was commissioned by the BC Water Governance Project, a partnership of the Fraser Basin Council, BC Ministry of Environment, Fraser Salmon and Watershed Program, Georgia Basin Living Rivers Program and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The report is intended to provide useful information and tools for government and other stakeholders participating in the ongoing dialogue on water governance in the province of British Columbia. It presents an independent, academic analysis of select water governance issues, focusing on ‘delegated’ (also known as ‘devolved’ or ‘shared’ or ‘distributed’) water governance. The analysis is based on research conducted by the University of British Columbia’s Program on Water Governance in the latter half of 2007. It will be published in the public domain, as mandated by UBC’s Ethics Review Board.

Project status:
This project is ongoing
For more information about this program, please contact:
Linda Nowlan