Types of Institutional Arrangements

An agreement or institution may be thought of as a sociopolitical analogue to a vibrant ecosystem, and thus vulnerable to the same categories of stressors that threaten ecosystem sustainability. In this regard, water management treaties and institutions must sustain resilience despite the following types of stressors:

• Biophysical stressors: Are there mechanisms to account for droughts and floods, or shifts in the climate or river course?

• Geopolitical stressors: Will the agreement or institution survive dramatic changes in government, both internal and international?

• Socioeconomic stressors: Is there public support? Is there a stable funding mechanism? Will the agreement or institution survive changing societal values and norms?

Similar to an ecosystem, the best management is adaptive management, i.e., the institution has mechanisms to adapt to changes and stresses, and to mitigate their impact on its sustainability.14

Crafting institutions requires a balance between the efficiency of integrated management and the sovereignty-protection of national interests. Along with greater integration of scope and authority may come greater efficiency, but also comes greater potential for disagreements, greater infringement on sovereignty, and greater transaction costs for more information. Some possible institutional models are offered in Figure 3. Nevertheless, for every set of political relations, there is some possible institutional arrangement which will be acceptable and, if its management is iterative and adaptive, responsibility can be regularly 're-crafted' to adapt or even lead political relations.

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