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Governance Innovations for a Transition to Sustainable and Equitable Water Use in Europe (GOVAQUA)

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Governance Innovations for a Transition to Sustainable and Equitable Water Use in Europe (GOVAQUA)

Research Program

The overall goal of GOVAQUA is to identify, assess, develop and validate innovative water governance instruments and approaches to support and accelerate a transition towards sustainable and equitable water use in Europe. Such a transition is urgently required to reconcile water uses and environmental needs and to reach the aims of the EU WFD, the European Green Deal and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. GOVAQUA is a 4-year Research and Innovation Action (funded by the EU) that brings together 12 partners from across Europe.

The project covers niche governance innovations in

  1. legislation and regulation,
  2. multi-stakeholder participation and collaboration,
  3. economics and finance, and
  4. digital solutions for information sharing.

To achieve its aim, the project will:

  • Systematically analyse and compare existing water governance systems across Europe, focusing on water use and its impacts in agriculture, industries, energy production, water utilities and the role of citizens.
  • Conceptualise sustainability transition in water governance and create associated criteria and indicators for its assessment.
  • Systematically review, analyse and compare good practices, and further co-develop, assess and validate these with stakeholders in real-world action situations of six living labs in river basins, sub-basins or catchments in France, Finland, Spain, the UK and Romania, and transnationally between Finland and Sweden.
  • Deliver new knowledge, participatory tools and good practice guidelines laying out pathways towards a sustainable and equitable water future.

Ecologic Institute leads work package WP2 that aims to identify legal and regulatory challenges and levers in the policy framework for reaching the objectives of the WFD, the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals for sustainable water use at EU and national levels. The work package will review and assess innovative legal and regulatory instruments and develop policy recommendations for sustainable water use at EU and national level with a focus on orders of use priority, water allocation regimes, regulation of water-intensive value chains and e-flows.

Ecologic Institute also contributes to the work in the Living Lab on the Organisme Unique de Gestion Collective (OUGC) Water Markets which will co-design and test economic instruments to tackle water shortages to irrigation water users and preserve groundwater recharge. The Living Lab is situated in the Crau aquifer in southern France and is led by partners INRAE and IRD.

Innovative governance approaches and instruments can play a key role in accelerating sustainability transition in water management.


Project ID
water policy, sustainability transition, water economics, governance, integrated water management, digital solutions, river basins, water allocation, e-flows, value chains