Call for papers

 Local- and national-level politics of groundwater overexploitation

Groundwater overexploitation is a worldwide phenomenon with worrying consequences and few effective solutions. Work on groundwater governance often emphasizes formal state-centered policies and tools but empirically-grounded work is more limited. Another strand of work examines community-based governance and common-pool resources approaches to managing groundwater, but not many convincing cases have been documented in detail. This special issue will seek to gather and synthesize knowledge on the three following main issues:

  • The politics of groundwater policy-making: how are state groundwater policies established? What actors, networks, interests and knowledge are mobilized? What do the lack of enforcement and the gap between objectives and results on the ground reveal? How are regulation targets at the aquifer level conceived of, scientifically grounded, negotiated, and to what extent do they aptly consider the various third-party effects of groundwater abstraction. What are the relationships between groundwater policies and other sectoral policies?

  • Implementation and local dynamics: how do local actors ignore, circumvent, deflect, appropriate, cope with or adjust to state policies? What does this reveal about state-community relationships and the limits of state power? Who is impacted and how/to whom is water reallocated? What are the implications of observed dynamics for policy-making?

  • Groundwater as a common-pool resource: what examples do we have of community-based management, or co-management, of aquifers? What are the conditions and contexts conducive to such arrangements? How effective and reproducible are they? Can state regulations 'enable' local management – both in regulating access to existing groundwater resources or in promoting groundwater recharge? What is the specific role of state actors but also of NGOs or corporate actors?

Priority will be given to empirically grounded case studies.

Time line

Launch of the call                                                                     1 September 2017

Deadline for submission of abstracts (300-500 words)            15 October 2017

Notification of authors                                                              30 November 2017

Final submission                                                                      15 March 2018

Final papers, after review                                                         30 August 2018

Publication                                                                                1 October 2018

Contact the Guest Editors

François Molle                        

Elena López-Gunn                 

Frank van Steenbergen         

Or send your abstract to: