About us

The Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law (UCWOSL) of Utrecht University does research in the area of water law, oceans law, environmental law, climate law and sustainability law.

Its leading position in the area of water and oceans law and policy is partly due to international collaboration and a keen eye for the application of scientific insights into practice. Members of the research group advise international organisations, the European Commission and various Dutch and other governmental and private institutions and participate in various international consortia. 

Research centre

The Centre’s research leader is prof. mr. Marleen van Rijswick and is supported financially by the ‘Stichting Schilthuisfonds’.

Researchers of UCWOSL

Characteristics of our research

The research originally developed from two separated tracks over the past decades. On the one hand, the oceans track and, on the other, the fresh water and general environmental law track. The ocean track has an international law focus, including the law of the sea. This is linked with the implementation of international rules by the EU and by states, including the Netherlands.

The fresh water and general environmental law track covers the legal aspects of fresh water and river basin management on the international, European and national level. Since 2016, the focus of our research has been broadened to important parts of European and national environmental law, including spatial planning and nature protection. European and national environmental law is not only studied in relation to water law, but also as a field of interest on its own. Legal aspects of the circular economy, climate change, the Aarhus Convention and others have our attention.

The research is both mono disciplinary and multidisciplinary and this multidimensional approach is characteristic for research at the department of law of Utrecht university. Besides international, European and national public law also legal theoretical research, human rights and the role of private actors including corporate social responsibility are within the scope of the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law.

Read the research proposal (pdf).

Utrecht University

The Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability is one of the research centres of the Utrecht University School of Law, part of the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance.

The research of UCWOSL fits within two strategic research themes of Utrecht University: Institutions for Open Societies and Sustainability.

UCWOSL participates in the research focus area Future Deltas. Future Deltas aims to improve our understanding of the natural and societal systems, their drivers and how they interact at the level of deltas. Future Deltas follows an interdisciplinary approach by bringing together expertise from various research groups on natural processes, spatial planning, land and water governance and legislative frameworks. It focuses on dealing with problems related to subsidence and associated loss of ecosystem services.