Folder Issue 3

October 2014


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Bureaucratic reform in irrigation: A review of four case studies

Diana Suhardiman
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Vientiane, Lao PDR;

Mark Giordano
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, USA;

Edwin Rap
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Cairo, Egypt;

Kai Wegerich
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Tashkent, Uzbekistan;

ABSTRACT: Poor performance of government-managed irrigation systems persists globally. This paper argues that addressing performance requires not simply more investment or different policy approaches, but reform of the bureaucracies responsible for irrigation management. Based on reform experiences in The Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan, we argue that irrigation (policy) reform cannot be treated in isolation from the overall functioning of government bureaucracies and the wider political structure of the states. Understanding of how and why government bureaucracies shape reform processes and outcomes is crucial to increase the actual significance of reforms. To demonstrate this, the paper links reform processes in the irrigation sector with the wider discourse of bureaucratic reform in the political science, public administration, and organisational science literature. Doing so brings to light the need for systematic comparative research on the organisational characteristic of the irrigation bureaucracies, their bureaucratic identities, and how these are shaped by various segments within the bureaucracies to provide the insights needed to improve irrigation systems performance.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation development, irrigation bureaucracies, policy reform, poor systems performance, bureaucratic reform


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Inside matters of facts: Reopening dams and debates in the Netherlands

Arjen Zegwaard
Institute for Environmental Studies, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands;

Philippus Wester
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal;, and Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: Both civil engineering and environmentalism strongly influenced the development of water governance in the Netherlands in the 20th century. Much research has focused on these aspects separately. This article maps the interaction between governance, technology and ecological systems in the Netherlands, to provide insights into how these are co-evolving. The analysis is based on a combination of a literature study and an empirical case study on the debates concerning the reopening of the Philipsdam, in the Southwest Delta of the Netherlands. It shows how the negotiations that took place in constructing facts in the Philipsdam case both increased the complexity of decision-making concerning the dam itself and radiated outwards to affect other parts of the Dutch water system. We conclude that the process of constructing facts and the way these are framed once they have been established as facts are both intrinsically political and reflect the multiplicity of views of how the lake works and what the problem is, and how these views are incompatible at times. As such, ontological complexity is ingrained in what is represented as facts and severely complicates an apparently matter of fact decision to reopen a dam.

KEYWORDS: Uncertainty, constructing facts, modelling through, Delta Works, the Netherlands

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The productive use of rural piped water in Senegal

Ralph P. Hall
School of Public and International Affairs, Urban Affairs and Planning Program, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA;

Eric A. Vance
Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (LISA), Department of Statistics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA;

Emily van Houweling
Women and Gender in International Development, Office of International Research, Education, and Development (OIRED), Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA;

ABSTRACT: Over the past decade there has been a growing interest in the potential benefits related to the productive use of rural piped water around the homestead. However, there is limited empirical research on the extent to which, and conditions under which, this activity occurs. Using data obtained from a comprehensive study of 47 rural piped water systems in Senegal, this paper reveals the extent of piped-water-based productive activity occurring and identifies important system-level variables associated with this activity. Three-quarters (74%) of the households surveyed depend on water for their livelihoods with around one-half (54%) relying on piped water. High levels of piped-water-based productive activity were found to be associated with shorter distances from a community to a city or paved road (i.e. markets), more capable water system operators and water committees, and communities that contributed to the construction of the piped water system. Further, access to electricity was associated with higher productive incomes from water-based productive activities, highlighting the role that non-water-related inputs have on the extent of productive activities undertaken. Finally, an analysis of the technical performance of piped water systems found no statistically significant association between high vs. low levels of productive activity and system performance; however, a positive relationship was found between system performance and the percentage of households engaged in productive activities.

KEYWORDS: Multiple-use water services, domestic plus, technical performance, water committee capacity, rural piped water, Senegal

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Water, cities and peri-urban communities: Geographies of power in the context of drought in northwest Mexico

Rolando E. Díaz-Caravantes
El Colegio de Sonora, Hermosillo, Sonora, México;

Margaret Wilder
University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA;

ABSTRACT: The urban-peri-urban interaction is frequently studied with a focus on the necessities of urban expansion, chronicling the concerns of land annexation, housing construction and infrastructure. However, in arid regions such as Mexicoʼs drought-prone northwest, the research on peri-urban issues must increasingly focus on the under-examined issue of the power geometries that are reshaping the contours of access to water in fast-growing areas. This paper examines geographies of power of the urban-rural interface in Sonora, Mexico. Focused in the political ecology framework, we compare the success of Hermosilloʼs water supply projects while analysing some cases of peri-urban water users and grouping them into three general types: negotiation, passiveness and resistance, with large powerful water users, referred to in this paper as 'counterpoint cases'. We argue that urban water augmentation strategies reveal a distinct set of urban-peri-urban relations of unequal social power where peri-urban water resources are transferred to urban areas; reflecting, over the last three decades (1981-2010), the demands of powerful, politically connected urban populations and large irrigation districts. While during the same period, peri-urban small-scale communal farmers or ejidatarios lost access to their water as it was moved or used to supply the needs of Hermosilloʼs expansion.

KEYWORDS: Water, geography, power, peri-urban, ejidos, Mexico

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Desalination and water security: The promise and perils of a technological fix to the water crisis in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Jamie McEvoy
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA;

ABSTRACT: Across the globe, desalination is increasingly being considered as a new water supply source. This article examines how the introduction of desalinated water into the municipal water supply portfolio has affected water security in the coastal tourist city of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur (BCS), Mexico. It also analyses the competing discourses surrounding desalination in the region and discusses alternative water management options for achieving water security. This article challenges the notion that desalination is an appropriate and sufficient technological solution for arid regions. The findings provide evidence of increased yet delimited water security at a neighbourhood scale while identifying new vulnerabilities related to desalination, particularly in the context of the global South. This article concludes that implementing a technological fix on top of a water management system that is plagued with more systemic and structural problems does little to improve long-term water management and is likely to foreclose or forestall other water management options. This multi-scalar analysis contributes to the emerging literature on water security by considering both a narrow and broad framing of water security and identifying a range of factors that influence water security.

KEYWORDS: Water security, desalination, adaptive water management, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

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Coyotes, concessions and construction companies: Illegal water markets and legally constructed water scarcity in central Mexico

Nadine Reis
Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany;

ABSTRACT: Many regions of (semi)arid Mexico, such as the Valley of Toluca, face challenges due to rapid growth and the simultaneous overexploitation of groundwater. The water reform of the 1990s introduced individual water rights concessions granted through the National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua, or CONAGUA). Since then, acquiring new water rights in officially 'water-scarce' aquifers is only possible through official rights transmissions from users ceding their rights. With the law prohibiting the sale of water rights, a profitable illegal market for these rights has emerged. The key actor in the water rights allocation network is the coyote, functioning as a broker between a) people wanting to cede water rights and those needing them, and b) the formal and informal spheres of water rights allocation. Actors benefitting from water rights trading include the coyote and his 'working brigades', water users selling surplus rights, and (senior and lower-level) staff in the water bureaucracy. The paper concludes that legally constructed water scarcity is key to the reproduction of illegal water rights trading. This has important implications regarding the current push for expanding regularisation of groundwater extraction in Mexico. Currently, regularisation does not counter overexploitation, while possibly leading to a de facto privatisation of groundwater.

KEYWORDS: Water rights, water markets, groundwater concessions, water scarcity, Mexico


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New arenas of engagement at the water governance-climate finance nexus? An analysis of the boom and bust of hydropower CDM projects in Vietnam

Mattijs Smits
Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University; Wageningen, the Netherlands;

Carl Middleton
MA in International Development Studies Program, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand;

ABSTRACT: This article explores whether new arenas of engagement for water governance have been created and utilised following the implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in large hydropower projects in Vietnam. Initial optimism for climate finance – in particular amongst Northern aid providers and private CDM consultants – resulted in a boom in registration of CDM hydropower projects in Vietnam. These plans, however, have since then busted. The article utilises a multi-scale and multi-place network governance analysis of the water governance-climate finance nexus, based on interviews with government officials, consultants, developers, NGOs, multilateral and international banks, and project-affected people at the Song Bung 2 and Song Bung 4 hydropower projects in Central Vietnam. Particular attention is paid to how the place-based nature of organisations shapes the ability of these actors to participate in decision-making. The article concludes that the CDM has had little impact on water governance in Vietnam at the project level in terms of carbon reduction (additionality) or attaining sustainable development objectives. Furthermore, whilst climate finance has the potential to open new, more transparent and more accountable arenas of water governance, current arenas of the water governance-climate finance nexus are 'rendered technical', and therefore often underutilised and inaccessible to civil society and project-affected people.

KEYWORDS: Water governance, Clean Development Mechanism, hydropower, arenas of engagement, Vietnam

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Spatial displacement and temporal deferral: Toward an alternative explanation of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin water conflict

Johnny King Alaziz Wong
College of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, US;

M. Martin Bosman
College of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, US;

ABSTRACT: The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin conflict officially began in 1989 and despite ongoing declarations of readiness to seek a negotiated outcome to the conflict, there is still no end in sight. In fact, 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of this conflict. In this paper, we depart from conventional explanations of the crisis and propose an alternative theoretical point of entry to draw attention to the key structural forces driving water accumulation strategies in the basin. In doing so, we turn to David Harvey’s theoretical framework of capitalist growth and crisis to present an alternative understanding of the water conflict. By adopting this framework, we will reveal how the most dominant political and economic actor in the conflict, metro-Atlanta, has devised a series of spatial and temporal strategies to delay and displace a resolution while simultaneously using the impasse to entrench its economic and territorial interests to secure as much water as possible from the ACF water basin. The paper emphasises the crisis of capitalism in the form of suburbanisation in metro-Atlanta as the primary context in which the water conflict exists.

KEYWORDS: Water conflicts, capitalism, spatiotemporal fix, switching crisis, accumulation by dispossession, ACF conflict