IWA Publishing

Water policy reform and Indigenous governance

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Concerns related to the governance of water that have emerged at the global scale have created pressure for, and an increase in, water policy reform in many countries. Simultaneously, Indigenous governance movements related to self-determination are undergoing an immense period of growth and change worldwide; the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been a milestone of this growth. These movements are significant because of Indigenous peoples' asserted rights to lands, waters, and natural resources. In this paper, we explore the extent to which water policy reform efforts recognize concepts of Indigenous governance and self-determination. The extent to which these concepts are recognized is critical because water policy reform often occurs in the asserted traditional territories of Indigenous peoples. Using an empirical case study of water policy reform in British Columbia (BC), Canada, we demonstrate why in Indigenous traditional homelands, water policy reform efforts should have regard for the main tenets of Indigenous governance. The findings indicate that, problematic assumptions exist regarding the role of First Nations. These assumptions have the potential to undermine the prospects for water policy reform. Revisiting these assumptions may be the basis for more effective, enduring policy changes. Implications for water reform processes around the world are discussed.

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