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Who Owns Water? Policy and Management of a Vital Natural Resource


Admission requirements

This course is an Honours Class and therefore in principle only available to students of the Honours College and students of Leiden University College. There are a few places available for regular students.

Target group: HC students of the third and second year. Because of the preference for the course to provide an interdisciplinary perspective, the course is accessible to students in science or non-science backgrounds, including the Faculties of Science (SCI), Social Science (FSW), Humanities (HUM), and Archaeology (ARCH). The instructor has considerable experience in teaching to a diverse student audience.


Water is a vital resource to humans and nature and in an era of global environmental change its effective management is essential. Whether or not there will be sufficient water resources for future generations ultimately depends on the development of effective policies, as well as the effectiveness of governmental organizations to implement such policy.

The focus of this class is to examine policies which influence the use of water by different stakeholders, ranging from local to international. The course critically examines the justification of different policies and laws which influence the distribution and quality of water, their environmental impacts, and especially compares and contrasts approaches between North America and the European Union. The course provides an interdisciplinary perspective on water management and welcomes students from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The class includes lectures, discussion, practical assignments, and field trips.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

  • be able to synthesize scientific literature about water policy and management.

  • know how to communicate complex ideas to a multidisciplinary audience.

  • have experience with the assessment of policies concerning a major theme in water resources in the contexts of global environmental change.

  • Present scientific findings to a diverse audiences.


8 lectures on Tuesdays April 4, 11, 18, 25, and May 2, 9, 16 and 23: 18.00hrs until 21.00hrs.


Leiden – Old Observatory, Room C005.


Week 1: Water and global environmental change (introduction, of range of topics), policy and management conflicts (lecture/discussion)
Week 2: Water resource policy (lecture/discussion)
Week 3: International dimensions: International stakeholders, agreements (lecture / student debate), student presentations
Week 4: Comparative water policy: National models, EU case studies (lecture / student debate), student presentations
Week 5: Water policy and management in the developing world (focus on Nile basin, excursion to UN-IHE in Delft)
Week 6: The local scale context: Stakeholders and policy implementation, environmental impacts (lecture / discussion)
Week 7: Water policy and ecosystem services (lecture/discussion), course synthesis; student presentations
Week 8: Student presentations

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Lectures: 4 lectures of 4 hours: 16 hrs

  • Seminars: 2 seminars of 4 hours: 8 hrs

  • Excursion: 1 excursions of 6 hours: 6 hrs

  • Literature reading & practical work: 6 hours for 7 weeks: 42 hours

  • Assignments & final essay: 68 hours

Assessment method

  • 15% Participation: contribution to class ideas, attendance, participation in class exercises and debates;

  • 40% Presentations (2 @ 20% each): students work with a partner, and are assigned a date/theme for presentation

  • 45% Case study report: related to a specific theme on water policy and management (due Friday midnight of week 8)

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will not be used in this course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

A course packet of articles and policy documents provided several weeks prior to class.


Enrolling in this course is possible from Monday November 7th until Sunday November 20th through the Honours Academy, via this link


Please contact the instructor, Dr. Paul Hudson , for questions about the course.