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Depoliticising poor water quality: Ambiguous agreement in a wastewater reuse project in Morocco

Amal Ennabih
Sciences-Po Lyon, UMR Triangle, Lyon, France; am.ennabih@gmail.com

Pierre-Louis Mayaux
CIRAD, UMR G-EAU, Univ Montpellier, Montpellier, France; pierre-louis.mayaux@cirad.fr

ABSTRACT: How are depoliticising discourses on water issues produced and rendered effective? Research on discursive depoliticisation has focused on the ability of different types of policy networks to generate powerful and reasonably coherent depoliticised narratives. In the paper, by tracing the depoliticisation of poor water quality in a wastewater reuse project in Marrakesh, Morocco, we suggest that depoliticised discourses can also be produced in a much more dispersed, less coordinated way. In the case analysed here, depoliticisation occurred through an 'ambiguous agreement' around a highly polysemic idea, that of innovation. All the key actors understood that the project was innovative but that water quality was not a significant part of the innovation. This encouraged each actor to frame poor water quality as a strictly private matter that the golf courses needed to tackle on their own; however, each actor also had their own, idiosyncratic interpretation of exactly what this innovation was about and why poor water quality was in the end not that important. Showing how depoliticisation can be the product of mechanisms with varying degrees of coordination helps account for the ubiquity of the phenomenon.

KEYWORDS: Depoliticisation, discourse, wastewater reuse, polysemy, ambiguous agreement, Morocco