in: Water Alternatives 15 (2), 473-500
International targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals or those that are set as part of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) programmes are, on the whole, universally accepted; however, they are often shaped mainly in the Global North. As a result, when these institutionally set targets conflict with pre-existing rules and norms in implementing states, implementation difficulties may result, as one can currently observe with regard to IWRM and SDG 6.5. Governance challenges that result from implementation gaps are often filled at the local level, where actors arrange for functional management processes despite institutional insecurity. Applying institutional bricolage theory, we investigate such processes for South Africa, Mongolia and Peru, focusing on how horizontal and vertical coordination, as well as participation, are achieved as key aspects of IWRM. By adopting an analytical frame focusing on institutions, discourses and power relations based on Frances Cleaver’s bricolage dimensions, we show how their governance and management arrangements have evolved. In the process of comparing the three cases, we consider what conclusions can be drawn from these arrangements with regard to facilitating institutional transfer processes. Our study shows that informal aspects of governance systems powerfully influence the interpretation of newly introduced policies. We find that efforts to implement international blueprints that neglect institutional legacies, sociocultural dynamics, and pre-existing inequalities are unlikely to result in arrangements that are suited to local realities.