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Research project STEER

Increasing Good Governance for Achieving the Objectives of
Integrated Water Resources Management


Water is a valuable resource for many domains, such as agriculture, the energy sector or private households. If different uses of water and associated land resources are not coordinated effectively, the available water quantity or quality can be so severely reduced that certain types of use are restricted and ecosystems are impaired. To solve this problem, the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has become popular over the past two decades. It aims to harmonise the demands of different users and types of use. In practice, however, the implementation of IWRM is facing major challenges. Among other things, many problems have proved to be too complex to be solved from a predominantly water-centred perspective. A deeper integration of the objectives of water, energy and food security is therefore necessary to improve cross-sectoral governance and reduce conflicts of use.

The STEER project

STEER's goal is to find innovative ways to increase good governance to solve complex water resources problems. New forms of coordination and cooperation are at the centre of interest. STEER examines the influence of the governance and management system on solving complex water resource problems. The impact of societal and environmental conditions is also examined in order to find out under which circumstances elements of effective governance systems can be transferred. On the basis of these analyses, STEER will develop solution strategies for current conflicts of use around water resources.

What is special about STEER is the intended development of a diagnostic approach. Such an approach identifies promising solution strategies based on similar problem situations characterised by characteristic features. The diagnostic approach makes it possible to adapt and transfer solution strategies for similar contexts.

The systematic involvement of stakeholders from practice plays an important role in STEER. In in-depth case studies with different boundary conditions (
Weser-Ems, Emscher, Guadalquivir, Kharaa, and uMgeni), the project will investigate how certain factors (e.g., organisational structures, legal requirements, environmental conditions) affect the effectiveness of coordination and cooperation, and thus the success of IWRM. The perspectives of local actors will also be considered. Innovative approaches (for example using the concept of ecosystem services) are to be developed and tested as far as possible in the in-depth case studies. Findings will be examined in a comparative analysis with further case studies. This allows the identification of factors which, in combination, result in good cross-sectoral governance. On the basis of the test results, STEER will develop a diagnostic toolbox. It will provide insights of the project to users from practice and science. In addition to tools for the analysis of complex water resources problems, the toolbox will also provide tools for the development of solution strategies.

At a scientific level, STEER makes an important contribution to the further development and application of diagnostic approaches in water governance research. The project helps to reduce conflicts of use between different sectors and to create synergies in order to manage water resources more proactively and more sustainably. In selected regions, STEER strives for exemplary agreements between local actors in order to resolve existing coordination deficits. At the international level, STEER contributes to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6.5 on the worldwide implementation of IWRM. Target groups for the results of the project are regional actors from the water sector, national ministries and authorities responsible for water resources, as well as international organizations committed to the sustainable management of water and land resources.

Further information:

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the joint project "Erhöhung der STEuerungskompetenz zur ERreichung der Ziele eines integrierten Wassermanagements (STEER)" within the scope of the funding measure "Globale Ressource Wasser" (GRoW).