Institutional Change in Water Management Cooperation: Implementing the European Water Framework Directive in the Eastern German Odra Basin

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"The transposition of the Water Framework Directive requires institutional change, in order to comply with its substantive and procedural requirements. This paper investigates changes in water governance in Germany with regards to the configuration of actors involved and the scope and spatial extent of issues considered in water management. In comparison to water planning and management according to administrative boundaries the WFD demands for the re-scaling of River Management to ecosystem units. Based on qualitative methods the paper presents the illustrative case study of the Odra river basin and the governance of nutrient pollution, whose origins are located all along the river and which impacts the coastal zones specifically. We look at public administrations operating within different administrative boundaries, the role of environmental NGOs and the agricultural sector, and formal and informal institutional change concerning their interrelation. To capture these changes we construct a conceptual framework to evaluate institutional change at three levels: formal institutional change, institutional change concerning the formal and informal interfaces between actors, and changes in actors’ mental models. We explain complex institutional change as a product of multiple dynamics, including the content of shared mental models and their normative contents for action, and a benefit-cost calculation, including the consideration of transaction costs concerning compliance with substantive and procedural prescriptions that the WFD makes. Empirically, the paper describes institutional change in each of these spheres."
water management, integration, transaction costs, water pollution