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A paradigm confronting reality: The river basin approach and local water management spaces in the Pucara Basin, Bolivia

Vladimir Cossío
Centro AGUA, Universidad Mayor de San Simon (UMSS), Cochabamba, Bolivia; CSPR and Environmental Change Division, Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University; vladimir.cossio@liu.se

Julie Wilk
Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Environmental Change Division, Linköping, Sweden; julie.wilk@liu.se

ABSTRACT: The current Bolivian water policy incorporates the IWRM paradigm adopting the river basin as the space for water management in the country. The linkage of water management with communal territories in the Andes challenges the application of the river basin approach, bringing water spaces into the discussion. Considering the example of the Pucara River Basin, the article uses space theory to identify characteristics of local spaces for water management and to contrast them with the river basin concept. The river basin concept is applied by water professionals, mostly taking the perceived dimension of this space into consideration and sometimes in abstract terms. In contrast, the lived dimension of space is more important in local water management spaces and it is not represented in abstract terms. Local water spaces are flexible and strongly related to local organisations, which allows them to respond appropriately to the needs and demands of peasant society in the area, characteristics that cannot be found in the river basin space.

KEYWORDS: Space, water management, river basin, IWRM, Cochabamba, Bolivia