This article fills this gap by providing an overview of the way in which this literature has engaged with trust as a conceptual lens, analytical device and empirical phenomenon.

Through an explorative systematic literature review  of N = 200, mainly peer-reviewed journal articles, the authors’ findings reveal that the knowledge base on the role of trust in water governance is fragmented, poorly conceptualized, and contextually dispersed. They also observe that the role of trust is often understudied, especially in the context of the global south and with regard to ethnic minorities and indigenous people as the subjects of trust.

The authors recommend that future research should build on solid empirical evidence, diversify its foci, go beyond an instrumental approach to trust and rely on clear and transparent conceptualizations that acknowledge the context-specific and dynamic nature of trust relationships. The results of this review should serve to better systemize future research and to further the understanding on the role(s) of trust in varying contexts and related to different water governance issues.