Mission & Objectives

Ensuring clean, flowing fresh water today and for the future requires a bold shift towards new forms of governance. Our mission is to drive innovative water and watershed law, policy, and governance reform and to generate change towards a sustainable freshwater future. We:

  • Produce cutting-edge transdisciplinary research.
  • Share ideas and practical solutions.
  • Convene water leaders, experts, and practitioners.
  • Collaborate with partners and communities to create change.
  • Communicate leading thinking on freshwater sustainability to improve outcomes as issues emerge in real time.

What We Do

Our work is based on a strong foundation of rigorous applied research that explores water and watershed law, policy, and governance with a focus on solutions, best practices, and opportunities for reform. We are a nimble “think-and-do tank” that collaborates with a wide network of decision-makers, influencers, academics, experts, and on-the-ground organizations working across scales.

Our work demonstrates the powerful potential of new governance approaches with an explicit focus on ecological function and healthy watersheds, conservation, community-driven collaboration, stewardship, and respect for Indigenous rights and knowledge. We develop and help advance practical legal and institutional changes that embody the principles of sustainability, ecological governance, and social and ecological resilience as the foundation for a comprehensive legal and policy framework.

Our priority areas are:

  1. Water Law and Policy
  2. Watershed Security and Governance
  3. International and Transboundary Water Governance
  4. The Water-Energy Nexus
  5. Water Conservation and the Water Soft Path
  6. Water Ethics

Learn more about our priority research areas.

Who We Are

Our core team consists of researchers, staff, and expert advisors with backgrounds in law, policy, governance, economics, geography, public policy, government, ethics, environmental communication, and knowledge mobilization. We bring together experience from the academic, public, private, and practitioner sectors to develop applied research and offer practical solutions and best practices for a sustainable freshwater future.

POLIS team in fall 2021


Project History

Gathered outside our early office at University House 4 on the University of Victoria campus.

The POLIS Water Sustainability Project began in 2003 as a focused initiative of the University of Victoria’s POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. Originally established as the “Urban Water Demand Management Project,” our focus quickly broadened to include fundamental governance issues—including long-term, comprehensive, watershed-based planning and innovative institutional and ecosystem-based legal reforms. To reflect this change, in 2005 we changed our name to the Water Sustainability Project. In 2011, POLIS moved to the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies (CFGS) and is currently housed there as one of CFGS’s ongoing interdisciplinary projects.