Assessing the governance capacity for international collaboration for access to clean, sufficient and safe drinking water

Over the past two years, Melvin Gale worked with two water governance assessment tools, the ten building blocks framework by van Rijswick and the City Blueprint Approach. In this blog, he shares his results.

City Blueprint framework

The big difference between these two frameworks, which also became evident in my research gap, is that there is a need for a standardised analysis tool for water governance at the river basin level. The City Blueprint is such a framework and therefore has high comparative value. Context always matters. The City Blueprint’s quantitative results must always be interpreted in the right context, for instance, when comparing countries with vastly different hydrological challenges and or socio-economic characteristics. Yet, the standardised method, grounded in scientific literature, is what makes the City Blueprint unique. In my experience, the results are useful for practitioners and academics alike to get a comprehensive overview of the water governance performance at an urban scale.

The City Blueprint tool offers a standardised method to compare water governance between cities. This way, practitioners and water managers can get insight into the state of their water governance performance and see how cities with similar water challenges and or socio-economic characteristics can learn from each other.

I did a two-scale analysis in the Catchment Management Agency (CMA; similar to the Dutch Waterschappen) of Pongola-Umzimkulu in South Africa. This CMA is roughly the size of the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN; approx 90,000km2). The first analysis was at the urban scale, namely the city of Durban where I applied the full City Blueprint. The second scale was at CMA level, where I used the Governance Capacity Analysis.

Alternative fieldwork

Unfortunately, I could not to do my fieldwork this summer for obvious reasons (COVID-19), so I conducted ten interviews with key stakeholders from home. I found out that there are significant challenges in the multi-level governance structure necessary for sound water management. There is a lack of decentralisation and autonomous decision-making, which leads to long communication lines and jeopardizes stakeholders’ real impact (while stakeholder engagement is generally high, the actual impact on decision-making is low). The institutional void is now filled by “passionate individuals” who have the network and expertise, but not the official seat at the table (yet). It is the question whether the central government will allow the space for these bottom-up initiatives to grow.

GCA Durban


The quantitative data for the City Blueprint tool mainly focus on Europe. With the expansion of the cities assessed by the City Blueprint, I recommend adjusting the indicators so that the tool is applicable worldwide. This study’s full results can be found here and may provide valuable input for the Blue deal‘s ambition to help 20 million people worldwide gain access to clean, sufficient, and safe water.

More information

The 10 building blocks framework by van Rijswick (2014)

City Blueprint Approach

Thesis from Melvin Gale