A systematic review on the role of trust in the water governance literature

Remko Voogd*, Peter M. Rudberg, Jasper R. de Vries, Raoul Beunen, Aileen Aseron Espiritu, Nadine Methner, Rasmus Kløcker Larsen, Gunn Elin Fedreheim, Sander Goes, Elizabeth Kruger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Trust is generally considered to play a key enabling role in water governance. Despite this notion, there have been no systematic assessments examining the way in which the literature on water governance engages with ‘trust’. Our article fills this gap by providing an overview of the way in which this literature has engaged with trust as a conceptual lens, analytical device and empirical phenomenon. Through an explorative systematic literature review of N = 200, mainly peer-reviewed journal articles, our findings reveal that the knowledge base on the role of trust in water governance is fragmented, poorly conceptualized, and contextually dispersed. We also observe that the role of trust is often understudied, especially in the context of the global south and with regard to ethnic minorities and indigenous people as the subjects of trust. We recommend that future research should build on solid empirical evidence, diversify its foci, go beyond an instrumental approach to trust and rely on clear and transparent conceptualizations that acknowledge the context-specific and dynamic nature of trust relationships. The results of this review should serve to better systemize future research and to further the understanding on the role(s) of trust in varying contexts and related to different water governance issues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100147
JournalWater Research X
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Conceptualization of trust
  • Empirical foundations
  • Stakeholders
  • Sustainable collaboration
  • Systematic literature review
  • Trust in water governance


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