Legal Pluralism in Water Governance

A key challenge of governance architecture is dealing with legal pluralism, multiple systems of rules that apply to the same situation (or jurisdiction). However, while there is considerable literature that diagnoses the existence of pluralism, there is very little that explores how pluralist norms and rules can be dealt with.  In fact, Zips and Weilenmann (2011:7) suggest that “governance and legal pluralism belong to separate academic idioms.” Against this background, this panel is innovative in that it analyses (a) the existence of legal pluralism in the fresh water regime and in the marine system, (b) at multiple levels of governance, in order to assess (c) the nature of pluralism in the water field as a whole, (d) the challenges it poses to water governance at different levels, and (e) explores how governing actors can actually deal with pluralism. It argues for the existence of two types: essential and non-essential pluralism.  In the latter case, constitutive systems share a body of principles. Here the main challenge is to achieve coherence. In the case of essential pluralism, however, governing actors adhere to different principles, knowledge bases and worldviews, and ‘bridging’ is a long-drawn and sensitive process. Our theoretical framework argues that legal pluralism can lead to four ideal typical situations – one in which the multiple rules coexist, one where they compete, one where they accommodate each other, and one where they try to be mutually supportive. Against this framework, the purpose of this Panel Proposal is to explore the issue of legal pluralism in water governance – focusing on marine governance, freshwater governance and ground water governance.