Ethics of Water Governance

Water is essential for human life. However, due to its scarcity, the management of water is a topic of great concern. Inadequate management may lead to famines, food insecurity, ecological destruction, and resource-based conflicts and eventually to human suffering and the loss of millions of human lives. At the same time, the risk of flooding is, in some areas at least, equally or even more urgent.

Both water scarcity and flood risks pose some pressing distributive questions: allocation and distribution of resources, access rights, distribution of flood risks, distribution of responsibilities. These are questions that cannot be answered on the basis of technical data only. It is increasingly recognized that an adequate management of water requires that the institutional constraints and juridical context be taken into account, with due attention for issues of equity and social justice.

In the present project on the ethics of water governance, we aim to bring together research that may contribute to the development of an integrated account of water governance, linking insights from policy sciences, new institutional economics, (international) law, ethics and applied science, technology and engineering. By including different perspectives, we hope to contribute to the articulation of detailed and useful moral principles of water governance, and so help solving the water crisis.


Round Table “The Values of Water”

On March 13th, 2012, the Department of Technology, Policy, and Management of Delft University of Technology hosted a one-day round table “The Value of Water.” The aim of this gathering is community building, and discussing outputs in the form of articles, edited books and special issues. This workshop is invitation-only. The list of participants included various esteemed water scholars and professionals from different countries and continents.


On June 18-20, 2012, the Third International Engineering Systems Symposium took place under the theme Design and Governance in Engineering Systems: Roots – Trunk – Blossoms. The symposium is being organized jointly by The Council of Engineering Systems Universities (CESUN), the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I chaired the special track on “Resource Scarcity in System Earth,” in which water scarcity is one of the central themes. For further information, please go directly to the CESUN website.

Special issue: Water Governance

Together with Bertien Broekhans (TU Delft) and Erik Mostert (TU Delft), I edited a special issue of the journal Water Governance on the ethical aspects of water governance. The issue, which appeared in fall 2013, included contributions by Stefan Kuks (UTwente), Marleen van Rijswick (UU), Bas Jonkman (TU Delft), Carel de Villeneuve (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and Jeroen Wanders (WUR).


This site is maintained by Neelke Doorn. If you have any questions, suggestions for cooperation, or joint research activities, please contact me at N.Doorn[at]