Politics of innovation in multi-level water governance systems

Katherine A. Daniell*, Peter J. Coombes, Ian White

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    66 Citations (Scopus)


    Innovations are being proposed in many countries in order to support change towards more sustainable and water secure futures. However, the extent to which they can be implemented is subject to complex politics and powerful coalitions across multi-level governance systems and scales of interest. Exactly how innovation uptake can be best facilitated or blocked in these complex systems is thus a matter of important practical and research interest in water cycle management. From intervention research studies in Australia, China and Bulgaria, this paper seeks to describe and analyse the behind-the-scenes struggles and coalition-building that occurs between water utility providers, private companies, experts, communities and all levels of government in an effort to support or block specific innovations. The research findings suggest that in order to ensure successful passage of the proposed innovations, champions for it are required from at least two administrative levels, including one with innovation implementation capacity, as part of a larger supportive coalition. Higher governance levels can play an important enabling role in facilitating the passage of certain types of innovations that may be in competition with currently entrenched systems of water management. Due to a range of natural biases, experts on certain innovations and disciplines may form part of supporting or blocking coalitions but their evaluations of worth for water system sustainability and security are likely to be subject to competing claims based on different values and expertise, so may not necessarily be of use in resolving questions of "best courses of action". This remains a political values-based decision to be negotiated through the receiving multi-level water governance system.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2415-2435
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Issue numberPC
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2014


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