Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dan Shrubsole


The purpose of this dissertation is to develop a framework for assessing water governance by consolidating and refining disparate principles of water governance in the existing research literature. The developed framework is then applied in a case study of the Lerma Chapala basin in Mexico to assess the state of water governance, and identify accomplishments and constraints in the implementation of an effective water governance system. The study conducts a content analysis of primary data collected through semi-structured interviews with multiple stakeholders in the basin (N=51) and secondary data from national water policy documents (N=18).

Overall, the study identified one major achievement and five major constraints in the implementation of water governance in the Lerma-Chapala basin. The achievement pertains to successful stakeholder negotiations that resulted in a treaty for the allocation of scarce surface water resources in the basin; hence, mitigating allocation conflicts. Constraints include (1) the failure of water user representatives to advance issues that pertain to their stakeholder group in the Basin Council, (2) a fragmented approach to water management that hinders the success of programs and activities at the basin level, (3) the persistence of a centralized decision making protocol that neglects local context, among other issues. Overall, the application of the developed framework in a content analysis of policy documents and stakeholder interviews reveals a major disconnect between policy and practice in the Lerma-Chapala’s water governance experience.

The dissertation contributes to the existing literature by providing a conceptual framework for assessing water governance systems. The refined set of five meta-principles allows for better conceptualization, and makes it easier to identify policy-practice disconnects and tease out achievements and constraints to water governance. In this sense, the framework could assist in guiding water sector reforms where changes are needed, and improve the water governance system.