Glossary of Key Terms


Affected stakeholders:

As used in this document, refers to those individuals and/or groups who may not be directly engaged in a WSI’s activities but who may be directly affected by the WSI’s activities and/or outcomes. See also stakeholders.

  • Public resource capture: Public resource capture occurs where public resources — whether civil servant staff time, political attention, or organizational or departmental budgets — are diverted to serve a narrow group of interests at the expense of the wider societal or public good.
  • Policy capture: Policy and legislative capture exist where private organizations unduly dominate a policy-making or law-making process to the extent that other stakeholders’ views tend to be excluded or considered less important, with the result that policy formulations or legal provisions favor vested interests to the detriment of the public good.
  • Regulatory capture: Regulatory capture occurs where the agency responsible for regulation is unduly influenced by or unduly favors the interests of certain stakeholders. This can result in favorable handling, such as failure to vigorously enforce regulations, or inconsistent, non-proportional, or selective enforcement.
Perverse outcomes:

As used here, refers to WSIs that inadvertently exert negative impacts on social equity or the environment, or that undermine effective and efficient institutional performance related to water management.

Political economy:

The interplay among economics, politics, and law, and how institutions develop in different social and economic systems to manage the production, distribution, and consumption of resources. It includes issues such as the distribution of power and wealth among groups and individuals, and the processes that create, sustain, and transform these relationships over time.

Public interest:

The welfare of the general public (in contrast to the selfish interest of a person, group, or firm) in which the whole society has a stake and which warrants protection by the government. (Adapted from As used here, the public interest benefits of WSIs are directly linked to ensuring sustainable water management (see definition below).

Stakeholder engagement:

A two-way effort to get involved and/or involve stakeholders in activities and decision-making processes to ensure effective water governance. Engagement happens at different stages of an initiative and can take various forms depending on the degree of involvement of stakeholders. (Source: OECD Stakeholder Engagement for Effective Water Governance, Technical Note.)


Individuals, groups of individuals, and organizations that affect and/or could be affected by the WSI’s activities. There are several main categories of stakeholders: (a) those that have an impact on you (e.g., regulators, protest groups, news media); (b) those upon whom you have (or are perceived to have) an impact (e.g., nearby water users, neighbors, the natural environment); and (c) those neutral parties with no specific link but with whom it is beneficial to engage. (Adapted from The AWS International Water Stewardship Standard, Version 1.0.)

Sustainable water management:

The management of water resources that holistically addresses equity, economy, and the environment in a way that maintains the supply and quality of water for a variety of needs over the long term and ensures meaningful participation by all affected stakeholders.

Theory of change:

Refers to the building blocks required to bring about a given long-term goal. It is a specific and measurable description of a social change initiative that forms the basis for strategic planning, ongoing decision making, and evaluation. It can be seen as explaining how and why an initiative works; theory of change analysis seeks to identify underlying assumptions about how change comes about, to make these assumptions more explicit, and to test them. (Adapted from and Jesper Johnsøn, Theories of change in anti-corruption work: A tool for programme design and evaluation, 2012.)

Vested interest:

A personal interest on the part of an individual or group in a particular system, arrangement, or institution with the expectation of personal gain.

Water challenges:

Water-related issues that are of interest or concern to an organization, a site, or stakeholders in a particular river, basin, or region, and which, if addressed, will provide positive impacts or prevent negative impacts. (Adapted from The AWS International Water Stewardship Standard, Version 1.0.)

Water governance:

Formal and informal processes that allow for the determination and negotiation of objectives, setting of standards, and resolution of disputes among disparate voices in order to address challenges and meet objectives at local, subnational, and national levels in the management of water resources and delivery of water services. (From and OECD Stakeholder Engagement for Effective Water Governance.) Water governance is defined by the political, social, economic, and administrative systems that are in place, and that directly or indirectly affect the use, development, and management of water resources and the delivery of water service at different levels of society. Governance is “good” when the actions (and inactions) of all parties are transparent and accountable so that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities and the most vulnerable are heard in decision making, and the needs of the present and the future are taken into account. (From WIN, About Water Integrity, 2014.)

Water stewardship:

The use of water in a way that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial, achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that involves site- and basin-based actions. Water stewardship involves organizations taking shared responsibility to pursue meaningful individual and collective actions that benefit people and nature. (Adapted from Alliance for Water Stewardship: What Is Water Stewardship?, 2010.)

Water stewardship initiative:

A coordinated engagement among interested parties (most often including businesses) to address specific shared water challenges; a WSI typically involves structured collective action, joint decision making, and joint implementation.

WSI initiator:

A single organization or a small group of organizations that have identified the need to work collectively on water in a defined geographic area and that begins a process of identifying the local water challenges, opportunities, and potential participants to a WSI.

WSI participant:

An individual or organization that is actively participating in the design and implementation of a WSI. Participants can come from any sector but must have committed resources and/or time to the initiative.

WSI practitioner:

An individual involved in the management or ongoing implementation of a WSI.

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