WATER DIPLOMACY: A NEGOTIATED APPROACH TO MANAGING COMPLEX WATER NETWORKS by Shafiqul Islam and Lawrence E. Susskind

Reviewed by W. Todd Jarvis, Oregon State University

Shafiqul Islam and Lawrence E. Susskind provide an interesting new framework that is both innovative and complementary to existing water negotiations frameworks.

Water Diplomacy: A Negotiated Approach to Managing Complex Water Networks, by Shafiqul Islam and Lawrence E. Susskind, RFF Press, 334pp

The days of groundwater problems being solved by hydrologists watching water move through well screens or across computer screens is quickly being replaced by the political melodramas typically found on the movie screen – negotiating over water use and reuse. This is where the new book by Shafiqul Islam and Lawrence Susskind is an important addition to the library of postmodern hydrologists. The objective of the book is to provide “a 21st century approach to water management that acknowledges the complexity and uncertainty of natural and societal systems, accepts the increasing interconnectivity and consequences of important decisions, and rejects the unquestioned authority of hierarchical governance structures.”

Water Diplomacy reads like three books under one cover. The first book develops the water diplomacy framework with an introduction to complexity theory, scale and networks through the clever use of a fable about a fictitious river basin, Indopotamia. The second book sets the stage for negotiations by examining a non-zero sum approach to water negotiations. Special features of the first two ‘books’ include many excerpts from selected journal articles related to each chapter topic, followed by short commentary by the authors.

The reader revisits Indopotamia in the third book, where a well-documented role play simulation is offered as a capacity-building exercise. I participated in this role play simulation during the 2012 Water Diplomacy Workshop. The book, the annual workshop and the role play are wonderful additions to the many other trainings and frameworks on negotiations over water resources.


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