Water Governance

Research at USER on water governance aims to improve livelihood security, human and ecosystem health in the Mekong Region. We have supported and are intrigued by the possibilities of inclusive and deliberative processes to improve decision-making. We also contribute to efforts to build capacity for institutional, political and policy analysis of water governance issues.

Our more theoretical work hopes to change the way people think about states, authority and governance. In particular, we have been looking closely at issues of scale, space and expertise in assessment, deliberation and decision-making or, in short, the politics of knowledge. We are also interested in the politics of vulnerability and resilience around “risk management” and what its implications are for the pursuit of social justice, for instance, as part of adaptation to climate change or building resilience to climate change.


VOICES Project

Project Title

Listening to voices on the margins: lessons from the COVID-19 crisis for improving access to clean water for drinking and hygiene in the Mekong Region

Project’s Goal and Objectives


To identify effective ways to improve access to clean water for drinking and hygiene of vulnerable people on the margins, by listening closely to their stories of responding to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, and comparing their perspectives with current practices and policy ideas in the Mekong Region.

Specific objectives:

  1. To document the stories of how marginalized and vulnerable women and men responded to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on their access to clean water for drinking and hygiene, and their views on how such water insecurities could be reduced.
  2. To document and analyse the views of development experts and policy actors on how to address the impacts of disruptive crises like the COVID-19 outbreak on access to clean water for drinking and hygiene.
  3. To identify the key similarities and differences in perspective among marginalized and vulnerable people and experts or policy actors, and based on this draw lessons for communities, civil society, business, and governments on ways to improve access to clean water for drinking and hygiene.


  • VOICES project brief (EN|TH)
  • Impacts of COVID-19 outbreak on water access for hygiene and drinking of vulnerable groups in Chiang Mai infographic (TH)
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the management of COVID-19 webinar summary report (TH)
  • Impacts of COVID-19 outbreak on access to clean water for hygiene and drinking of vulnerable groups in Chiang Mai (TH)

Selected Publications

  • Lebel L, Lebel P, Chuah CJ. 2018. Governance of aquaculture water use. International Journal of Water Resources Development: 1-23 doi:10.1080/07900627.2018.1457513 (Paper)
  • Lebel, P., L. Lebel, D. Singphonphrai, C. Duangsuwan, and Y. Zhou. (2018). Making space for women: civil society organizations, gender and hydropower development in the Mekong region. International Journal of Water Resources Development: p. 1-21. (Abstract)
  • Lebel L, & Lebel P. (2017). Policy narratives help maintain institutional traps in the governance of floods in Thailand. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 1-16. (Abstract)
  • Lebel L, & Lebel B. (2017). Nexus narratives and resource insecurities in the Mekong Region. Environmental Science & Policy. (Abstract)
  • Huntjens, P, Lebel, L, & Furze, B. (2017). The effectiveness of multi-stakeholder dialogues on water: reflections on experiences in the Rhine, Mekong, and Ganga-Brahmaputhra-Meghna river basins. International Journal of Water GovernanceVolume 5(5:3), 39–60. (Abstract)
  • Marks D, Lebel L. (2016) Disaster governance and the scalar politics of incomplete decentralization: Fragmented and contested responses to the 2011 floods in Central Thailand. Habitat International 52, 57-66. (Abstract)
  • Lebel L, Lebel P, Chitmanat C, & Sriyasak P. (2014). Benefit sharing from hydropower watersheds: Rationales, practices, and potential. Water Resources and Rural Development. 412-28. (Abstract)
  • Lebel L, E. Nikitina C. Pahl-Wostl, and Knieper C. (2013). Institutional fit and river basin governance: A new approach using multiple composite measures. Ecology & Society 18: (Abstract)
  • Men P, Thun V, Yin S, and L. Lebel. (2014). Benefit sharing from Kamchay and Lower Sesan 2 hydropower watersheds in Cambodia. Water Resources and Rural Development 4:40-53. (Abstract)
  • Dore J, Lebel L, and Molle F. (2012). A framework for analysing transboundary water governance complexes, illustrated in the Mekong Region. Journal of Hydrology. 466:23-36. (Abstract)
  • Huntjens P, Lebel L, Pahl-Wostl, C, Schulze R, Camkin J, Kranz N, (2012). Institutional design propositions for the governance of adaptation to climate change in the water sector. Global Environmental Change. 22(1), 67-81. (Abstract)
  • Pahl-Wostl C, Lebel L, Knieper C, and Nikitina E. (2012). From applying panaceas to mastering complexity: Towards adaptive water governance in basins. Environmental Science and Policy. 23: 24-34. (Abstract)
  • Lebel L, Grothmann T, and Siebenhüner B. (2010). The role of social learning in adaptiveness: insights from water management. International Environmental Agreements. 10:333-353. (Abstract)
  • Lebel L, J. Xu R. Bastakoti C, and Lamba A. (2010). Pursuits of adaptiveness in the shared rivers of Monsoon Asia. International Environmental Agreements. 10:355-375. (Abstract)
  • Dore J, Lebel L. (2010). Gaining Public Acceptance: a critical strategic priority of the World Commission on Dams. Water Alternatives. 3(2): 154-171. (Abstract)
  • Deliberation, Negotiation and Scale in the Governance of Water Resources in the Mekong Region (Abstract)
  • Gupta J, Lebel L. (2010) Access and allocation in earth system governance: water and climate change compared. International Environmental Agreements 10, 377-395. (Abstract)