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Drought and climate change are widely considered to be major drivers of water reform, particularly in arid and semi-arid environments. Water shortage crises have been cited by politicians as their impetus to make significant changes to the way water is managed and used. However, where these policies require agreement between state and federal governments, the process often stalls, sometimes for many years. The study examined three case studies of intergovernmental relations agreements about water management in federations: The Jucar-Vinalopo Water Transfer Project in Spain, the Colorado Basin Drought Contingency Plan in the United States, and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Australia. By bringing together the collaborative water management, intergovernmental relations and critical junctures literatures to compare the cases, we can examine how drought acts as a catalyst for policy change, but also point to situations where it is not a sufficient lever to motivate state and federal governments to agree to action.
Penny Sullivan is a Sir Roland Wilson scholar and PhD candidate at the Crawford school. Her research focuses on intergovernmental relations in federal water management, seeking to understand how state and federal governments pursue their objectives in water conflicts with each other.