Folder Issue 1


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Bulk Water Suppliers in the City of Harare – An endogenous form of privatisation of urban domestic water services in Zimbabwe?

Emmanuel Manzungu
University of Zimbabwe, Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, Harare, Zimbabwe;

Margret Mudenda-Damba
University of Zimbabwe, Centre for Applied Social Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe;

Simon Madyiwa
University of Zimbabwe, Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, Harare, Zimbabwe;

Vupenyu Dzingirai
University of Zimbabwe, Centre for Applied Social Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe;

Special Musoni
University of Zimbabwe, Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, Harare, Zimbabwe;

ABSTRACT: This paper investigates the phenomenon of bulk water suppliers in the city of Harare, Zimbabwe’s largest urban metropolis and capital. Bulk water suppliers began in 2005 to sell domestic water to middle- and high-income suburbs because of shortcomings in the city’s water delivery system without state regulation, and have since become a permanent feature of the Zimbabwean urban waterscape. The study was conducted between 2012 and 2013 in three up-market suburbs of Harare, which were known to depend on bulk water suppliers. State regulation of bulk water suppliers was introduced in 2013, close to a decade after the start of operations, indicating a reactive and reluctant acknowledgement that bulk water suppliers were now significant players in water service provision. The regulation was, however, poorly conceptualised, based on potable water standards, which proved to be cumbersome and placed onerous demands on the suppliers. The paper concludes that bulk water suppliers are playing a critical role in water service provision in Zimbabwe’s largest metropolis and represent a spontaneous injection of local private capital in the urban domestic water supply sector. They can therefore be seen as a viable endogenous form of privatisation of urban domestic water service (as contrasted to multinational companies) but should be viewed as complementing rather than replacing functional urban water supply systems. The operations of bulk water suppliers can be enhanced if a regulatory regime, informed by realities on the ground is crafted.

KEYWORDS: Urban domestic water supply, privatisation, waterscape, bulk water suppliers, Zimbabwe


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Critical reflections on building a community of conversation about water governance in Australia

Naomi Rubenstein
Monash Sustainability Institute, Monash University, Australia;

Philip J. Wallis
Monash Sustainability Institute, Monash University, Australia;

Raymond L. Ison
Engineering & Innovation Department, Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK,

Lee Godden
Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia;

ABSTRACT: Water governance has emerged as a field of research endeavour in response to failures of current and historical management approaches to adequately address persistent decline in ecological health of many river catchments and pressures on associated communities. Attention to situational framing is a key aspect of emerging approaches to water governance research, including innovations that build capacity and confidence to experiment with approaches capable of transforming situations usefully framed as 'wicked'. Despite international investment in water governance research, a national research agenda on water governance was lacking in Australia in the late 2000s as were mechanisms to build the capacity of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and collaborative policy practice. Through a two-year Water Governance Research Initiative (WGRI), we designed and facilitated the development of a community of conversation between researchers concerned with the dynamics of human-ecological systems from the natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, policy, economics, law and philosophy. The WGRI was designed as a learning system, with the intention that it would provide opportunities for conversations, learning and reflection to emerge. In this paper we outline the starting conditions and design of the WGRI, critically reflect on new narratives that arose from this initiative, and evaluate its effectiveness as a boundary organisation that contributed to knowledge co-production in water governance. Our findings point to the importance of investment in institutions that can act as integrative and facilitative governance mechanisms, to build capacity to work with and between research, policy, local stakeholders and practitioners.

KEYWORDS: Water governance, learning systems, knowledge systems, networks, Australia


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The Italian water movement and the politics of the commons

Chiara Carrozza
Centro de Estudos Sociais, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal;

Emanuele Fantini
Department of Integrated Water Systems and Governance, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft, the Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: The article contributes to the debate on the commons as a political strategy to counter the privatisation of water services by focusing on the experience of the Italian water movement. It addresses the question: how has the notion of the commons – popularly associated with the Global South – been understood, adopted and translated into practice by social movements in a European country like Italy? We identify three different understandings of the commons coexisting within the Italian water movement – emphasising universality, locality and participation. We describe the political claims and the initiatives informed by these understandings, and the actors which promoted them. Our analysis underlines that the polysemy of the notion of the commons, its complementarity with the 'human right to water' and its overlapping with the idea of 'public' not only proved to be effective in the Italian case, but also posed challenges when it came to translate the notion of the commons into specific governance and management frameworks. The politics of the commons defines the space where these dynamics unfold: it is more articulated than a mere rhetorical reference to the commons, but less homogeneous and coherent than the idea of a 'commons movement'.

KEYWORDS: Commons, water, social movements, privatisation, Italy


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The struggle for residential water metering in England and Wales

David Zetland
Leiden University College, The Hague, The Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: The transformation of water services that began with the privatisation of water companies in 1989 extended to households with the implementation of water metering. Meters 'privatised' water and the cost of provision by allocating to individual households costs that had previously been shared within the community. This (ongoing) conversion of common pool to private good has mostly improved economic, environmental and social impacts, but the potential burden of metering on poorer households has slowed the transition. Stronger anti-poverty programmes would be better at addressing this poverty barrier than existing coping mechanisms reliant on subsidies from other water consumers.

KEYWORDS: Water meters, collective goods, privatisation, regulation, England, Wales


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Cultivating the desert: Irrigation expansion and groundwater abstraction in Northern State, Sudan

Stephen Fragaszy
Independent Consultant; Research undertaken whilst at SoGE, University of Oxford, UK;

Alvar Closas
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Cairo, Egypt;

ABSTRACT: This study examines the socioeconomic features that underpin the expansion of groundwater-dependent irrigation in Northern State, Sudan. Groundwater development in the region serves as an economic lifeline given the poor Nile-based irrigation infrastructure and future changes in Nile hydrology. Groundwater-dependent irrigation is found to be expanding in previously uncultivated regions increasingly distant from the Nile. The study finds these historically marginal lands are targeted for capital-intensive agricultural projects because landholding patterns in traditionally cultivated areas preclude new large developments and improved infrastructure has lowered farming costs in distant terraces. Private companies and large landholders have a history of successful agricultural ventures in Northern State and are reliant on easily accessible and reliable groundwater resources for these new farms.

KEYWORDS: Groundwater abstraction, irrigation, agriculture, land tenure, Saharan Nile, Sudan


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