This paper addresses the problem of control design for hydro-turbine governing systems with surge tanks from the perspective of standard passivity-based control. The dynamic model of a synchronous machine is considered in conjunction with a model of the hydro-turbine to generate an eleventh-order nonlinear set of differential equations. An Euler–Lagrange representati of the system and its open-loop dynamics is developed. Then, the standard passivity-based control is applied to design a global and asymptotically stable controller in closed-loop operation. The proposed control is decentralized to avoid challenges of communication between the hydro-turbine governing systems. The proposed standard passivity-based control approach is compared with two control approaches. First, a classical standard cascade proportional-integral-derivative controller is applied for the governing system, the automatic voltage regulator, and the excitation system. Second, a sliding mode control is also implemented in the governing system. Two test systems were used to validate the performance of the proposed controller. The first test system is a single machine connected to an infinite bus, and the second test system is the well-known Western System Coordinating Council's multimachine system. Overall, simulation results show that the proposed controller exhibits a better dynamic response with shorter stabilization times and lower peaks during the transient periods. © 2019 Elsevier Inc.