Policy Brief.2015

Does the EC Water Framework Directive Build Resilience?

The ambition of the initiative is to make emerging scientific theories  of  resilience  operational  for  policy  making  that  concerns integrated water management. The initiative includes a wide scope of network partners such as Stockholm University, Institute for Social and Environmental  Transition  (ISET),  Stockholm  Environmental  Institute (SEI), Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).


As  will  be  discussed  and  elaborated  in  this  paper, the  perspective offered  by  emerging  theories  of resilience adds  important  and previously  poorly  elaborated  dimensions  to  what  isusually  denoted Integrated  Water  Resource  Management  (IWRM).  Put  bluntly,  while IWRM  suggests  an  approach  that  “promotes  the  co-ordinated development and management of water […] in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems” (GWP 2000:22), are silence  perspective  complements  this  view  with  an  approach  that promotes  social  learning,  experimentation  and  attempts  to  enhance the  ability  of  actors  to  tackle  uncertainty,  complexity  and environmental change.

The  issue  to  be  discussed  in  this  paper  is  whether the  EC  WaterFramework  Directive  (WFD)  builds  resilience,  i.e.  the  capacity  of freshwater systems to deal with change and perturbations. The WFD is of crucial importance for the governance of freshwater resources in the European Union. As will be discussed in detail, the current realization of the WFD in Sweden raises some considerable issues, and might at worst  reduce  the  resilience  of  nested  social-ecological  freshwater systems.  The  results  should  therefore  be  of  interest  to  all  those concerned  with  how  to  secure  the  bloodstream  of  both  nature  andsociety: water.

This  is  the  first  policy  paper  from  the Resilience  and  Freshwater Initiative.