EnTruGo project

Drinking water shortages in Cape Town, water quality threats posed by mining industries in Norway, social risks caused by hydropower dams in Sweden and droughts provoked by infrastructure developments in the Netherlands. The requirements on water governance to successfully provide for urgent societal water needs is rapidly increasing. To deal with these challenges, trust in governments, as one of the main actors, is key. However, these governments face a decline in trust, putting pressure on their legitimacy. The EnTruGo project (Enhancing Trust in Governments for effective water governance) therefore focusses on how trust between people influences trust in governments and vice versa, and aims at developing effective strategies for enhancing trust in governments.

To rebuild trust, legislatures and state agencies have launched various democratic innovations to strengthen service delivery; including initiatives such as citizens’ assemblies, e-governance, multi-stakeholder platforms, and direct democracy. A wide range of studies have shown that trust can develop in these contexts, but can also lead to increased distrust. Therefore it remains unknown if, and if so how, democratic innovations enhance trust in government institutions, amongst both stakeholders and wider public, and ultimately improve the effectiveness, sustainability and legitimacy of water governance.


The aim of the EnTruGo project is: to explore how interpersonal trust developed through democratic innovations characterised by public participation and stakeholder processes impact trust in government as guardian of water resources.


  1. To evaluate the status of trust in government institutions tasked with water management, including the key factors that shape public trust in government as guardian of water resources;
  2. To evaluate the impact of democratic innovative approaches on public trust in government and the wider implications of such trust dynamics for sustainable water governance;
  3. To identify governance strategies to enhance trust in government as a guardian of water governance actions.

Studying trust in water governance

WP1: The status of trust in government
Systematic literature review & review of studies on trust in government
Survey and interviews among government officials and stakeholders

WP2: Effects of democratic innovations on trust in government in diverse water governance contexts
Case studies: consultations with government officials and stakeholders
Joint sense-making and knowledge integration: research team workshop and national stakeholder workshops

WP3: Developing effective strategies
Transnational strategy-development workshop
Testing of preferences for draft strategies

4 Countries, 4 Cases

Norway: The disposal of rock waste in Finnmark County
The re-opening of copper and iron ore mines in Finnmark results in resistance amongst local inhabitants who feel overlooked by the formal decision making process. In these contexts, trust in the decision making process and the knowledge used is lacking. Understanding trust in key to gain a deeper understanding in how different stakes are balanced in the region.

South Africa: Enhancing water security through collaborative partnerships in the larger Berg-Breede catchment
South Africa is a water scarce country, with rising demands and declining trust in the government. In the Berg-Breede catchment these aspects come together, giving an excellent opportunity to study how interpersonal trust develops and effects trust in government.

Sweden: Hydropower on traditional Sami lands
Hydropower is key in the transition to a greener economy in Sweden. The responsibility for hydropower is largely delegated to companies, expecting that stakeholder consultations will enhance trust in government from Sami communities. However, the impact on trust has not been studied, creating opportunities to contribute to insights in trust development.

The Netherlands: Combating drought on the Sallandse Heuvelrug and the Reggedal
Drought resistance has become of major importance on the higher sand grounds in the Netherlands, especially in areas where different functions have high water demands (e.g. drinking water extraction, agriculture, nature). This often requires both small scale interventions, strong collaboration, as well as large scale spatial interventions and new water management practices, and the involvement of many different stakeholder groups. Not seldom, some groups feel overlooked and show high distrust towards the government. As such, low trust levels can hamper collaboratoin. Understanding the role of trust in these contexts is therefore key.