Water Reform and Governance

Water is a life stream for productive economies and is critical at every scale – from safe access at the household level, to mitigating conflicts across country boundaries. Management of water is considered a ‘wicked’ problem, one that is characterised by complexity, connectedness and conflict, and multiple perspectives. When regions neglect to manage water, it has negative economic, social and environment consequences.

What are some examples of failure in water governance and what have been the consequences? How have governments learnt from past failures and can we identify principles that can inform better governance decisions? How can we better engage across sectors to ensure ownership and support for reforms?

In this online training course, we will explore these questions and draw on practical examples to demonstrate how water reform processes are successful when they are context driven, inclusive of direct and indirect users of water, take a whole-of-water-cycle approach to reform, and deeply consider multiple societal outcomes. The course concludes with a look at the limits of current reform processes and explores what else we, as water professionals, should be considering.

Taking lessons from Australia and across the globe, this online course will help participants to understand policy reform in different contexts and at different levels of government. Consideration will be given to the principles of reform, along with a look at the institutions and processes for planning and allocating water resources.

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Learning objectives

By the end of the online course participants will have gained knowledge in a number of water reform and governance models and explored lessons that are relevant for different country contexts. Specifically, the course will provide:

  • increased knowledge of successful and failed approaches to water reform and governance
  • greater awareness and understanding of water reform and governance principles
  • improved understanding of how reform can deliver multiple benefits to urban and rural areas, the environment and communities
  • improved skills in analysis of governance frameworks and stakeholder engagement
  • increased capacity to use water governance principles to drive innovative solutions to complex water management issues.

Who should enrol?

This online course is for those wanting to understand and influence water reform and governance models through collaborative understanding and information sharing. This includes: practitioners, policy makers, decision makers and scientists, as well as employees of NRM groups, the private sector and water associations.

The course is designed for participants from multiple disciplines, to encourage diverse peer-to-peer discussions and interactive experiences. It offers a blend of theoretical learning and practical experiences in water reform and governance, applied in virtual classrooms to explore international and local case studies.


The online course covers:

  • the history of failures in water governance
  • water reform and OECD principles
  • Australian and international water reform and governance models
  • mechanisms, incentives and drivers of reforms in Australia
  • common key successes of reform processes
  • an exploration into how these lessons carry across different country contexts
  • directions and possible drivers of future reforms.

This online course encourages implementing water reform initiatives that have the potential to deliver multiple benefits to urban and rural areas, the environment and communities. In doing so, this online course helps participants to:

  • improve their capacity to deliver projects related to water reform and governance
  • understand the roles and responsibilities and the importance of collaboration
  • tailor approaches to water reform initiatives for different contexts
  • understand how to identify strategies to build trust and support for reforms.

Online classes will be held during daylight hours, Australian Eastern Standard Time. Approximately four hours per week will be required to study materials and participate in online classes.

You will also need access to a computer with:

  • a minimum internet speed of 256 kb/ second (to participate in live classrooms)
  • a headset with built-in microphone
  • either Microsoft Windows (version XP or greater; Windows Vista, Windows 7 or 8) or Apple OSX (version 10.2 or greater).

Permission to download, install and run software on your computer may be required.

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