Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Environmental Resources & Policy

First Advisor

Secchi, Silvia

Second Advisor

Bruch, Carl


This dissertation examines some of the strengths and weaknesses in basin level governance particularly as it relates to three current policy priorities: adaptive governance, international frameworks for response to natural and man-made disasters, and resilience in integrated water resources management. While these priorities are well-established in the academic and policy literature, in practice the ability to implement them at multiple levels has proven challenging. Though my dissertation highlights these challenges using case studies of European river basins, the observations and lessons for improving integrated management at multiple levels of governance, in multiple sectors, and among various actors are more broadly relevant to other natural resource governance settings. The first paper of this dissertation explores adaptive governance in the Tisza sub-basin, considering both constraints and policy options for strengthening adaptive governance at the sub-basin level. The Tisza is the largest sub-basin to the Danube River basin, and faces increasing pressures exacerbated by climate change. The Tisza countries have experienced challenges with managing climate change adaptation in a nested, consistent, and effective manner pursuant to the European Union Water Framework Directive. This is due, in part, to inefficiencies in climate change adaptation, such as weakened vertical coordination. This paper examines the conceptual domains relating to adaptation in international governance, and adaptation in transboundary water management in particular, with a focus on multilevel governance. International laws and policies governing transboundary waters in the Danube basin and Tisza sub-basin are reviewed. Using interviews and document analysis, the paper highlights challenges to adaptation in the Tisza sub-basin, including policy, fiscal, institutional, and capacity. The paper concludes with an exploration of possible policy options for sub-basin management, such as the development of a sub-basin commission, the establishment of a permanent Tisza expert group to be housed at and coordinated by the ICPDR, the use of new or existing bilateral treaties, and designing a framework for managing the Tisza. The second paper analyzes the transition in international frameworks of response to natural and man-made disasters as incorporated and integrated at multiple levels of governance. It begins with a discussion of the distinctions between so-called “natural” disasters and “man-made” accidents, how and why they are treated differently, and how recent developments in international law and practice are raising questions about the merits of these historic distinctions. Anthropogenic climate change drives more extreme and sometimes cascading disasters that require complex and overlapping types of response; it is argued that the distinctions in response to natural and man-made disasters are counterproductive, outdated, and ultimately flawed. The paper examines the policy and institutional frameworks governing response to natural disasters and man-made accidents in the Danube River basin and Tisza River sub-basin. Using expert interviews and legal and policy analysis, it then explores the differences in how natural disasters and man-made accidents are monitored and how they are responded to. The paper concludes with an analysis of the implications of transitioning policies toward a more holistic framework for response, regardless of whether the cause is natural, man-made, or (as is increasingly the case) some combination. The third paper advances the concept of a new approach – resilient IWRM – and how this approach can be applied to the management practices of the Danube and Rhine River basins and other river basins around the world. Using the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the leading framework for resilience, and supported by expert interviews, the paper analyzes what resilience measures have been addressed, and what gaps remain in the basin management frameworks of the Danube and Rhine River basins. The paper concludes with a discussion of the current constraints in the resilient IWRM framework of the Danube and Rhine River basins, in addition to options for overcoming these challenges. This dissertation concludes with a discussion of crosscutting dimensions of analysis, specifically the challenges faced in integrating climate change adaptation, response to natural and man-made disasters, and resilience into multiple levels of water governance. While these conceptual elements are well-established, the ability to operationalize these elements has proven difficult from multiple perspectives highlighted in this dissertation. The difficulties suggest a more nuanced and pragmatic approach to both their framing and their operationalization.




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