Global Water Initiatives Redux: A Fresh Look at the World of Water

Robert G. Varady, Tamee R. Albrecht, Andrea K. Gerlak, Arin C. Haverland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The complex and globally influential mosaic of institutional frameworks, organizations, events, declarations, professional societies, organizations, and networks that focus on water-resources governance collectively known as “global water initiatives” (GWIs) remains starkly understudied. We address this knowledge gap by means of a robust examination of key actors and institutions involved in global water governance and thereby affirm the dynamic and organic nature of the GWI landscape. Our investigation of the changing landscape of GWIs taps historical and current data and employs both text analysis and bibliometric review. We find that: (1) GWIs have diversified, expanded their constituencies, and gradually extended their influence over how water is perceived, governed, and managed; (2) the institutional landscape within which GWIs exist and operate is continuously shifting to accommodate and lubricate the spread of new ideas, ways of thinking, and available science and tools; (3) networks, megaconferences and their declarations, and water-themed journals likely will continue to be at the leading edge of global water governance and policy; and (4) the advent of the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals has enhanced the relevance of UN-Water, the network of water-related United Nations (UN) agencies. Our findings indicate that as the number of GWIs grows, such proliferation has not necessarily led to duplication, but more likely to diversity and interconnectedness. On balance, GWI activity tends to increase awareness-raising, information-sharing, network-building, agenda-setting, and on-the-ground action. GWI behavior both mirrors and influences prevailing worldviews on water governance and management and taken together, GWI efforts continue to shape international water discourse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3093
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • SDGs
  • global water governance
  • global water initiatives
  • water declarations
  • water institutions
  • water megaconferences
  • water policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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