Water scarcity, conflict resolution, and adaptive governance in federal transboundary river basins

Edella Schlager, Tanya Heikkila

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Federalism is characterized by multiple, independent, jurisdictions that exercise concurrent authority over citizens regarding a diversity of issues. Numerous scholars have noted the advantages of federal systems. Federalism ësignificantly broadens the perspectives brought to bear on an issueí (Shapiro 2011: 40), which produces several benefits, from governments acting as ëlaboratoriesí, developing and testing different policies; to redundancy, which allows for failure without the entire system collapsing. And, from learning and error correction to the effective representation of many and diverse interests. Of course, this description of federalism is too panglossian. Governments in a federal system are no more immune to public goods problems and collective action dilemmas than are individuals. The promise and opportunity of federalism is only to be realized if governments are supported and encouraged to cooperate and coordinate to realize shared benefits, and if competition and conflict among governments is kept within productive bounds and not allowed to become destructive. In other words, as Bednar (2009) argues, opportunism among governments in federal systems must be checked. Bednar (2009: 9) defines opportunism as when a government or governments in a federal system pursue their own interests at the expense of the general welfare. Opportunism may take at least three forms: encroachment ñ when a higher level government undermines the authority of a lower level government; shirking ñ when governments fail to follow through with their commitments and responsibilities to the union; and burden shifting ñ when governments impose externalities on one another (Bednar 2009: 9).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFederal Rivers
Subtitle of host publicationManaging Water in Multi-Layered Political Systems
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781781955055
ISBN (Print)9781781955048
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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