Water governance is experiencing a transformation. A new model of water governance, responding to climate change, and embracing principles of sustainable development, through community participation and shared responsibility is evolving. This model replicates the user-based model of water governance endorsed by many international water experts.
This paper will explain, outline and critique three models, user-based management, government agency management and a market-based management system and illustrate how aspects of each are adopted by the Western Canadian provincial governments for managing water resources. In assessing these models based on the principles of adaptive policy making, accountability, participation in decisions by all stakeholders, predictability, transparency, and decentralization, the user based management model is superior. However, best practices support a combination of the three models and a balance depending on the biophysical water resource and community needs.