Evaluating collaborative approaches to governance for water allocation in Canada: Lessons from Ontario

Water Economics, Policy and Governance Network (WEPGN)

Evaluating collaborative approaches to governance for water allocation in Canada: Lessons from Ontario

Project Description:

Collaborative approaches to dealing with water scarcity are becoming commonplace around the world. In many cases, mechanisms for collaboration are being layered onto existing institutions for water allocation. This creates problems of interplay, for example, a loss of legitimacy when the relationships between collaborative processes and regulatory processes are not clear. 

In Ontario, water is allocated under a provincial statutes and regulations, with gaps in the regulatory framework being filled with formal (policy-based) and informal institutions. Formal and informal collaborative partnerships among water users have emerged as a key tool. The effectiveness and appropriateness of this approach is unclear. Thus, Ontario is an excellent setting for exploring these issues.

The purpose of this research is to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of collaborative approaches to dealing with water scarcity and conflicting demands for water. The Province of Ontario provides the institutional setting for the study. However, the challenges faced in Ontario are practically universal. Specific objectives include the following:

  1. Identify the various formal and informal collaborative approaches to water sharing that are being used in Ontario.
  2. Evaluate the kinds of institutional interplay that are occurring among the different approaches, and assess the implications for key governance concerns such as legitimacy.
  3. Evaluate the extent to which collaborative approaches provide an effective and appropriate basis for water sharing in Ontario, with specific reference to the agriculture sector.

Work on this project will begin in early 2013. 


Rob de Loë


(1) Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Deb Brooker). OMAFRA has an interest in ensuring reliable supplies of water for the agriculture sector in Ontario. Deb’s group has been working on this problem for several years, but efforts have stalled. 

(2) Conservation Ontario (Charley Worte). Conservation Authorities play a key role in delivering Ontario Low Water Response, and figure prominently in local efforts to deal with water issues. As the umbrella organization for conservation authorities, CO has a long-standing interest in water allocation in Ontario.

(3) Ontario Ministry of the Environment (Brent Taylor).

Graduate Students:

Dan Murray (post-doc) & Alyssa Roth