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Solving Problems Of Fit And Interplay In IWRM Through Payments For Hydrological Ecosystem Services

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Jochen Hack (Darmstadt, Germany)

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 10: Management of water resources,


With Integrated Water Resources Management a new water management paradigm arose. Since the 1990s, most of the countries worldwide have started to establish enabling environments and defined new institutional roles in order to manage their water resources in a cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder and integrated way. This development has often occurred at the national level, but remained without subsequent implementation at the regional or local level in the form of water resources management at the river basin level. Problems of implementation at the river basin level are related to the identification of a suitable management scale and an actual cross-sectoral stakeholder involvement. Conventional attempts have tried to solve these problems independently without paying attention to specific motivations of involved actors. The use of management instruments more flexible to specific implementation contexts has only a recent record.


This contribution uses the concept of spatial fit and institutional interplay as an analytical framework to identify the problems of cross-sectoral integration and cooperation to find the right scale for both in a context-specific manner. Thereby, IWRM implementation problems are considered in a generic way without addressing particular contexts nor specific problem-settings. The results of this analysis then provide guidance to identify appropriate management instruments, flexible in addressing different contexts and problem-settings. In a next step, different management instruments are examined concerning their potential functional role in achieving institutional reform, providing incentives and behavioral change sensitive to prevailing constraints. Appropriate management instruments should be based on natural and human system's contexts, considering people and ecosystems (participatory and ecosystem-based).

Results and Discussion

The interdependence between the creation of an appropriate managing unit (scale) that reflects the characteristics of the natural resource to be managed (problem of fit) and a successful cooperation as well as coordination between different institutions (problem of interplay) has to be addressed through appropriate management instruments. This interdependence is very site-specific, thus, creating new spatial areas of governance and new institutions from top-down remains a challenge. Thus, conventional prescribed solutions from top-down to solve problems of spatial fit and institutional interplay prove to not work well, especially in an environment where existing institutions are weak and lack resources as for instance in many developing countries. While using traditional 'command and control' policies, usually bound to respective administrative limits, there is no incentive, neither for coordinated action to improve spatial fit, nor for cooperation for improved interplay. To achieve more context-specifity it is necessary to add complementary policy instruments to regulatory command and control instruments. Other instruments, especially economic instruments, are more flexible in: achieving different degrees of environmental targets (beyond compliance), involving additional actors for instrument design and implementation addressing specific local contexts and in tapping additional funding sources.


Complementary management instruments need to be flexible enough to match human and natural system context - address ecosystem characteristics and interactions of humans with the natural system at the right scale. These instruments should provide incentives for cooperation and collaboration across sectors and administrative boundaries at the identified scale. Furthermore, they should encourage social learning, self-regulation and participation. Management instruments have to be embedded in a diverse institutional and social system (compatibility with existing regulations).

The instrument of Payments for Hydrological Ecosystem Services has been identified to be suitable as a complement in order to address the specific problems of fit and interplay. This contributions presents the results of an empirical application analysis of this instrument. 1. Beveridge, R., Monsees, J., & Moss, T. (2012). The IRS Handbook: Analysing institutional and political contexts of water resources management projects. Erkner, Germany.

2. Dixon, J. (1997). Analysis and Management of Watersheds. In P. Dasgupta & K.-G. MÀler (Eds.), The Environment and Emerging Development Issues - Volume II (pp. 371–398). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

3. Dombrowsky, I. (2007). Conflict, Cooperation and Institutions in International Water Management. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

4. Ekstrom, J. A., & Young, O. R. (2009). Evaluating functional fit between a set of institutions and ecosystems. Ecology and Society, 14(2).

5. Folke, C., Pritchard, L., Berkes, F., Colding, J., & Svedin, U. (2007). The problem of fit between ecosystems and institutions: ten years later. Ecology and Society, 12(1).

6. Harrington, W., & Morgenstern, R. (2007). Economic incentives versus command and control: What’s the best approach for solving environmental problems? Acid in the Environment, 13–17.

7. Hein, L., van Koppen, K., de Groot, R. S., & van Ierland, E. C. (2006). Spatial scales, stakeholders and the valuation of ecosystem services. Ecological Economics, 57(2), 209–228. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2005.04.005

8. Holling, C. S., & Meffe, G. K. (1996). Command and Control and the Pathology of Natural Resource Management. Conservation Biology, 10(2), 328–337. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1996.10020328.x

9. Horlemann, L., & Dombrowsky, I. (2011). Institutionalising IWRM in developing and transition countries: the case of Mongolia. Environmental Earth Sciences, 65(5), 1547–1559. doi:10.1007/s12665-011-1213-7

10. Kaufmann-Hayoz, R., & Gutscher, H. (2001). Changing things - moving people: Strategies for promoting sustainable development at the local level. Basel, Switzerland: BirkhÀuser Verlag.

11. Moss, T. (2003). Solving Problems of “Fit” at the Expense of Problems of “Interplay”? The Spatial Reorganisaton of Water Management following the EU Water Framework Directive. In P. P. Mollinga, A. Dixit, & K. Athukorala (Eds.), Integrated Water Resources Management: Global Theory, Emerging Practice and Local Needs (pp. 64–108). London: Sage Publications.

12. Moss, T. (2004). The governance of land use in river basins: prospects for overcoming problems of institutional interplay with the EU Water Framework Directive. Land Use Policy, 21(1), 85–94.

13. Moss, T. (2012). Spatial fit, from panacea to practice: implementing the EU water framework directive. Ecology and Society, 17(3).

14. Moss, T., & Newig, J. (2010). Multilevel water governance and problems of scale: setting the stage for a broader debate. Environmental Management, 46(1), 1–6. doi:10.1007/s00267-010-9531-1

15. OECD. (2011). Water Governance in OECD Countries: A Multi-level Approach. OECD Publishing.

16. Vatn, A., & Vedeld, P. (2012). Fit, Interplay, and Scale: A Diagnosis. Ecology and Society, 17(4).

17. Young, O. R. (2002). The institutional dimensions of environmental change: Fit, interplay, and scale. Cambridge and London: MIT Press.

18. Young, O. R. (2006). Vertical interplay among scale-dependent environmental and resource regimes. Ecology and Society, 11(1).


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