Completed Research Projects - Water Policy

Policy Forums in Water and Environmental Governance

Policy forums are lightly institutionalized and stable forms of governance networks which include state authorities, interest groups, stakeholders and scientists and deal with policy problems in a given issue area. Especially new complex issues in domains such as climate change or energy policy are supposed to be better governed in a horizontal, informal and inclusive way within policy forums, as compared to the traditional hierarchical forms of political decision-making let by the state administration. This research project analyzes the role that such policy forums can play for the functioning of water and environmental governance. More specifically, it asks a) what outputs policy forums produce and how they contribute to decision-making and conflict resolution in water and environmental policy, and b) how the design, the management and the interactions within policy forums affect their ability to produce outputs.

To answer these questions, the project aims at analyzing policy forums at two levels, i.e. the level of forums themselves as well as at the level of members of policy forums. Policy forums are compared a) within the same institutional context (i.e. Switzerland), comparing forums within the large domain of environmental policy (around 50 forums, such as “Water Agenda 21”, “Energy Switzerland”, “Knowledge Transfer Forest Switzerland”, “Forum Biodiversity”) and b) at the international level, focusing on water policy forums only (platforms comparable to the Swiss “Water Agenda 21” exist for example in the Netherlands, Sweden, the USA or Spain).

Team: Manuel Fischer, Simon Maag, Eawag

Related Publications:

  • Fischer, M.; Angst, M.; Maag, S. (2019). Co-participation in the Swiss water forum network. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 35(3), 446-464 (first published online: 21 Sep 2017) . DOI:10.1080/07900627.2017.1374929.
  • Fischer, M.; Maag, S. (2019). Why Are Cross-Sectoral Forums Important to Actors? Forum Contributions to Cooperation, Learning, and Resource Distribution. Policy Studies Journal, 47(1), 114-137. DOI:10.1111/psj.12310.
  • Maag, S.; Fischer, M. (2018). Why Government, Interest Groups, and Research Coordinate: The Different Purposes of Forums. Society & Natural Resources, 31(11), 1248-1265. DOI:10.1080/08941920.2018.1484973.
  • Fischer, M.; Schläpfer, I. (2017). Metagovernance and Policy Forum Outputs in Swiss Environmental Policy. Environmental Politics, 26(5), 870-892. DOI:10.1080/09644016.2017.1284981.
  • Fischer, M.; Leifeld, P. (2015). Policy forums: Why do they exist and what are they used for? Policy Sciences, 48(3), 363-382. DOI:10.1007/s11077-015-9224-y.

Overlapping Subsystems: Identification and Integration of Fragmented Games in Swiss Water Politics

With the increasing complexity of modern political problems, actors are involved in an ecology of games and simultaneously deal with several issues at different stages and levels, and across varying arenas. We argue that traditional approaches focusing on single policy sectors are unable to deal with this new complexity in political decision-making. In the planned research project, we seek to overcome the limitations of these approaches by focusing explicitly on the games that actors play across issues, stages, levels and arenas. We ask, (1) how can overlapping games be identified; (2) what factors explain that actors or issues are involved in several games; and (3) how do the games that actors play interact with each other?
Empirically, the research project deals with Swiss water politics. Water-related issues are often transboundary and cross-sectoral in nature and involve different levels of decision-making. This complexity makes water politics an ideal case in which to study overlapping games. Our analysis will lead us to (1) map Swiss water politics and its ecology of games; (2) explain the ecology of games by analyzing why actors or issues are involved in several games; and (3) contribute to theory by developing a typology of games.

Project Start: April 1st 2014 – December 31st 2017
Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation
Team: Manuel Fischer, Philip Leifeld, Karin Ingold, Mario Angst, Laurence Brandenberger

Related Publications:

  • Fischer, M.; Leifeld, P. (2015). Policy forums: Why do they exist and what are they used for? Policy Sciences, 48(3), 363-382. DOI:10.1007/s11077-015-9224-y.

CrossWater - Transboundary Micropollution Regulation in Europe: the definition of appropriate management scales

One major challenge faced in environmental management is to adapt the spatial scale of regulation to specific environmental problems. From a natural science perspective, the appropriate scale of management units can be defined by the boundaries beyond which physical, chemical or biological processes have no effect on the environmental problem. However, actual political management units rarely match these ideal states. This is particularly true for transboundary water pollution in general, and micropollutants' regulation in particular, where different jurisdictions tend to produce diverse policy solutions and implement divergent instruments to tackle the very same problem within the same hydrological catchment area. In this research project we adopt an interdisciplinary approach combining mass flux analysis with political science and economic geography and ask the question: How can the potential mismatch between the physical extent of pollution and the respective political areas of action and regulation towards micropollution be visualized and grasped in order to design effective and efficient micropollution regulation?

Project Start: April 1st 2014 – December 31st 2017
Team: Karin IngoldLaura Herzog
Project partners and associate members: EAWAG: Hans-Peter Bader; Andreas Moser; Ruth Scheidegger; Christian Stamm; Alexander Widmer; Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER): Christophe Sohn; Marc Schneider; Antoine Paccoud

Related Publications:

  • Herzog, L. M.; Ingold, K. (2019). Threats to Common-Pool Resources and the Importance of Forums: On the Emergence of Cooperation in CPR Problem Settings. Policy Studies Journal, 47(1), 77-113. DOI:10.1111/psj.12308.
  • Ingold, K.; Moser, A.; Metz, F.; Herzog, L.; Bader, H.P.; Scheidegger, R.; Stamm, Ch. (2018). Misfit between physical affectedness and regulatory embeddedness: The case of drinking water supply along the Rhine River. Global Environmental Change, 48, 136-150. DOI:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.11.006.
  • Ingold, K.; Fischer, M.; de Boer, C.; Mollinga, P. (2016). Water Management Across Borders, Scales and Sectors: Recent developments and future challenges in water policy analysis. Environmental Policy and Governance, 26(4), 223-228. DOI:10.1002/eet.1713.
  • Metz, F.; Ingold, K. (2014). Sustainable Wastewater Management: Is it Possible to Regulate Micropollution in the Future by Learning from the Past? A Policy Analysis. Sustainability, 6(4), 1992-2012. DOI:10.3390/su6041992.
  • Hering, J.; Ingold, K. (2012). Water Resources Management: What Should Be Integrated? Policy Forum, 336(6086), 1234-1235. DOI:10.1126/science.1218230.

How to explain instrument selection in complex policy processes- A comparative network approach of micropollution regulation in the Rhine River Basin

This research project addresses the question of which factors explain governments’ choice of instrument selection. To answer this question, we concentrate on the emerging policy discussion and the formulation processes about micropollution regulation within the Rhine river basin and compare policy options of four riparian countries: Switzerland, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Project Start: April 1st 2012 – December 31st 2015
Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation
Team: Karin IngoldFlorence Metz
Project partners and associate members: H. Bressers (University of Twente); M. Lubell (University of California, Davis); F. Varone (University of Geneva)

Related Publications:

  • Metz, F. (2015). Do Policy Networks Matter to Explain Policy Design? A Comparison of Water Policy Networks and Water Protection Policies for the Reduction of Micropollutants in Four Rhine River Riparian Countries. Dissertation. University of Bern.
  • Metz, F.; Ingold, K. (2014). Sustainable Wastewater Management: Is it Possible to Regulate Micropollution in the Future by Learning from the Past? A Policy Analysis. Sustainability, 6(4), 1992-2012. DOI:10.3390/su6041992.

Water Supply Structures in the Canton of Basellandschaft

Decentralized and small organizational structures characterize the water supply sector in the Canton of Basel-Landschaft. Each municipality generally has its own waterworks. Only a few larger, joint waterworks exist – i.e., more centralized structures with shared ownership and operation between multiple municipalities. These current structures, however,  increasingly reach their limits to meet present and future water supply challenges. Specifically, the small waterworks face increasing difficulties due to rising quality and quantity demands as they often lack funds and know-how..

Given this context, the project aims to shed light onto potentially viable future water supply structures in different regions of the Canton of Basel-Landschaft. To accomplish this objective, the research project involves the following steps:

(1) an analysis of the current water supply structures’ strengths and weaknesses in the canton for coping with the major present and future challenges;

(2) an evaluation of the pros and cons of alternative structures (e.g., more centralized or cross-sector forms with different financing models and regulations) based on analyzing the few existing joint waterworks in the canton as well as other structures for water supply and other sectors (e.g., electric power supply, wastewater) in Switzerland;

(3) the development of recommendations for the public authorities regarding the applicability of these alternative structures in the Canton of Basel-Landschaft, potential obstacles and how to foster their implementation.

Project Start: May 1st 2013 – December 31st 2016
Team: Karin Ingold, Alexander Widmer
Project partners: Eva Lieberherr, Kathrin Steinmann

Related Publications:

  • Lieberherr, E.; Ingold, K. (2019). Actors in Water Governance: Barriers and Bridges for Coordination. Water, 11(2), 326. DOI:10.3390/w11020326.
  • Angst, M.; Widmer, A.; Fischer, M.; Ingold, K. (2018). Connectors and coordinators in natural resource governance: insights from Swiss water supply. Ecology and Society, 23(2), 1. DOI:10.5751/ES-10030-230201.
  • Lienert, J.; Schnetzer, F.; Ingold, K. (2013). Stakeholder analysis combined with social network analysis provides fine-grained insights into water infrastructure planning processes. Journal of Environmental Management, 125, 134-148. DOI:10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.03.052
  • Lieberherr, E.; Klinke, A.; Finger, M. (2012). Towards Legitimate Water Governance? The Partial Privatization of the Berlin Waterworks. Public Management Review, 14(7), 923-946. DOI:10.1080/14719037.2011.650056.
  • Lieberherr, E. (2011). Regionalization and water governance: a case study of a Swiss wastewater utility. Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences, 14, 73-89. DOI:10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.03.026.
  • Lieberherr, E. (2011). Acceptability of the Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program. Ecology Law Currents, 38, 25-35. PDF
  • Lieberherr, E. (2009). Acceptability of Market-Based Approaches to Water Management. Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.