Building Transboundary Water Governance Capacity for Non-point Pollution

A Comparison of Australia and North America


  • Dustin Evan Garrick Department of Political Science and Booth School of Engineering Practice | McMaster University
  • Gail Krantzberg Centre for Engineering and Public Policy and the Booth School of Engineering Practice | McMaster University
  • Savitri Jetoo The Booth School of Engineering Practice | McMaster University


adaptive governance, transboundary water governance, governance capacity, Great Lakes, Murray-Darling Basin, Columbia River, Colorado River, comparative water research, non point pollution


This paper uses the transboundary governance capacity framework (TGC) to compare responses
to nonpoint pollution in the Great Lakes and transboundary water basins in North America and
Australia. A step-wise approach to comparison refines our understanding of transboundary water
governance institutions, their design and performance. Using case studies that move from similar
to different geographic contexts, this comparative approach explores the opportunities and limits
for mutual learning; it draws on a set of institutional indicators developed for the TGC framework
to assess governance capacity within and across different geographic contexts. Governance capacity
for nonpoint pollution has been uneven in the Great Lakes with pockets of success linked to
high levels of multiple indicators. Capacity depends on legitimacy crafted through multi-layered
participatory decision-making processes, buttressed by formal conflict resolution and the availability
of regulatory mechanisms for third party enforcement if incentives and participation prove
insufficient. In the Columbia, Colorado and Murray-Darling Basins ‘issue linkages’ have been
used to remedy deficits in governance capacity by drawing from other water-related challenges,
such as fisheries and water scarcity, where governance capacity exists. In all cases, transboundary
governance capacity has required attention to ‘process values’ – that is the procedures used to come
to decisions and implement nonpoint pollution programs. Future research should examine how
attributes of transboundary governance capacity evolve in relation to environmental quality indicators;
it should also identify finer grained measures of the indicators to ensure external validity and
enable comparisons within and across case studies.


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How to Cite

Garrick, D. E. ., Krantzberg, G. ., & Jetoo, S. . (2016). Building Transboundary Water Governance Capacity for Non-point Pollution: A Comparison of Australia and North America. International Journal of Water Governance, 4, 111–132. Retrieved from

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