The discussions in the first webinar under the theme, ‘Groundwater governance: arrival at the current paradigm’, focussed on the current paradigm of groundwater governance, including the long history of groundwater use through millennia as well as the specifics of the history over the last hundred years or so. While discussing the global call for a shift from management to governance, we were posed with a pertinent question of identifying the possibility of the existing dichotomy between groundwater management and groundwater governance. It was apparent that there exists a contrast in the ways practitioners and policy makers perceive the concept of groundwater management and governance. The practitioner’s view, largely through experiences in India, involves (decentralised) groundwater governance as the last mile in a comprehensive process of groundwater management.
On the other hand, policy makers and researchers articulate an ‘umbrella’ view of groundwater governance, wherein groundwater management is a part of the larger context of groundwater governance. Further, to govern this complex resource, the need to inform-educate-communicate stakeholders was stressed time and again, especially by incorporating certain values of democracy within the groundwater governance paradigm. There was a collective agreement on the fact that understanding gwG is integral to the process of broadening our understanding of the governance of the commons. However, it was also pointed out that gwG faces challenges of disciplinary barriers, making the integrated science of aquifer behaviour and people’s behaviour pertinent. It was highlighted that important and difficult changes are possible only with the support of the local community, especially farmers. The concept of ‘grounded’ groundwater governance was repeatedly stressed.