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Governance of Water and Toxicity


Admission requirements



This course is focused on the sustainable governance of our global water resources. Sustainable management of global water resources is one of the most pressing environmental challenges of the 21st century. The basics of the course will link our current understanding on key aquatic ecological processes, and how these processes are currently affected by major anthropogenic stressors contaminants, with a focus on aquatic toxicity. At the same time, it will explicitly situate the basic analysis within an governance context. The course will demonstrate how scientific analyses are used in political debates and policy making and how policy framing and political choices constrain and enable research in the domain of water and toxicity.

During the course we will study a wide range of different subjects that are needed to analyse water and toxicity problems and make policy decisions to address these issues in the context of multiple policy frames and regulations. The subject analysis ranges from ecological topics (e.g., resilience theory, alternative stable states, nutrient cycling, hydrological cycle), current water sustainability issues, to stressors as studied within ecotoxicology (e.g., various contaminations’ fate and accumulation, effects as well as different ways of determining the health of an organism or ecosystem). The governance subjects range from the introduction of the legal frameworks (e.g. water framework directive, nitrates directive and waste water directive), to the framing analysis of policy debates (e.g. policy discourses in media and political arenas, boundary work, rhetoric, policy integration and policy images) and stakeholders perspectives (actors involvement).

Course objectives

  • Understand the current state of water sustainability issues, including biodiversity decline, impacts from climate change, water scarcity, salinization, etc.

  • To apply basic ecological concepts on the functioning of aquatic ecological systems to evaluate how impacts should be assessed related to the key anthropogenic treats to these systems.

  • Identify and synthesize different methodologies to study impacts on aquatic systems and apply these techniques to study impacts in different scenarios

  • Understand and discuss trade-offs related to decision making on the various functions that are expected from aquatic ecosystems

  • Compose and apply a framing analysis of policy documents, media, and political statements

  • Analyze a contemporary case-study bridging toxicity impacts on natural waterways to local water governance, and then create policy recommendation for future decision-making


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Field components (excursion)

  • Presentation

  • Written assignments

Assessment method

  • 3 Assignments (both group and individual)

    • Assignment 1 - Group assignment analyzing, interpreting, and summarizing environmental assessment data; poster presentation and creating a factsheet (40%)
    • Assignment 2 – Group assignment focusing on governance themes around case-study; oral presentation and participation in ‘sandpit day’ (40%)
    • Assignment 3 – Individual assignment, stakeholder policy recommendation/brief, anonymously peer-evaluated (20%)
  • Participation and in-class interaction, including excursion attendance (pass/fail)

  • No final exam occurs in this course

  • To pass the course, a minimum grade of 5.5 must be attained per assignment

Reading list

Course materials will consist of amongst all academic journal article, parts of an free accessible e-book, regulatory guidance documents and parts of reports. The readings will be integrated into the lectures or will be used within the
assignments done by the students. The link to articles will be provided.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Coordinator: Dr. K.A. Stewart.
Lecturers: Dr. G.E. Breeman, M.G. Vijver.