Factsheet #24

Water agency

Instrument Type


Governance Level


Governance Mode


Water management topics addressed

Drought & water scarcity
Water abstraction for irrigation and other economic activities
Water quality issues due to nutrient pollution
Water quality issues: Other reasons

Implementation requirements

Financial capacity


Human capacity


Political buy-in


Timeframe for implementation


#24: Water agency


Water agencies are public institutions which are coordinating upper water authorities, provinces and municipalities respectively in charge of , spatial planning and land use.


In a river basin or group of basins, the water agency is implementing the river basin management, by enabling efficient and sound management of water resources and aquatic environments, drinking water supply, flood control and sustainable development of economic activities. The water agency can provide financial support to actions of common interest which contribute to the sound management of water resources and aquatic environments, such as pollution removal, quantitative management or restoration of the resource and development of aquatic environments.

Example: Coordinated governance of Dutch water agencies

In the Netherlands, Regional, provincial and municipal water authorities, also known as Water agencies, coordinate the respective operations to ensure protection against flood risks and to maintain a healthy environmental status of water bodies. On a regional level, water authorities manage their own water systems with responsibility towards the water levels, the water quality and the treatment of wastewater. They are public bodies regulated by the Constitution which gives them a decentralized structure, own legal personality and financial resources. The provinces are responsible for the coordination of groundwater plans and regulation with other regional policies. They also integrate spatial and environmental planning within administrative boundaries when these are not coherent with hydro-geographically defined areas. Authorities on a municipal level are responsible for spatial planning on a local level, dealing with the collection of wastewater, urban systems for drainage and protection of the urban space from rainwater. The Dutch multilevel system for , spatial planning and land use entails mechanisms of counterbalance to check the autonomy of decentralized authorities. For example, provinces are designated by the constitution as supervisors of regional water authorities and they play an important role in the of establishment, dissolution and regulation of the latter.


OECD (2014). Water Governance in the Netherlands: fit for the future? OECD Studies on Water (pp. 94ff., 115ff.) https://www.oecd.org/governance/water-governance-in-the-netherlands-9789264102637-en.htm Retrieved on 22 September 2020.

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