Unconventional times call for unconventional water resources” (UN-Water, 2020).

The growth of unconventional water resources as a new resource frontier has been much touted over the last two decades and is transforming society’s relationship with water in diverse contexts. Desalination and wastewater reuse, in particular, are potentially game-changing technologies for water management and (re)distribution, and are carried forward by promises to overcome water scarcity, enhance water security and, for wastewater at least, increase agricultural yields while also improving the receiving environments. However, they also raise serious questions around justice and access to water services, political power, financing and corporate interests, environmental impact and sustainability, energy demand, and the cost of capital-intensive infrastructure. Unconventional waters are entering the hydro-social cycle through a myriad of social, political, economic and cultural configurations, from small-scale technologies to mega-infrastructure projects across the Global North and Global South.

Unconventional water technologies are likely to increasingly reshape the practices, politics and political economy of water throughout the twenty-first century, as the climate crisis worsens, water challenges become more entrenched, global economic growth continues and thirsty industries expand, and capital continues to seek out new opportunities for accumulation. Empirical evidence suggests that the 'creation of new water' does not necessarily ease the situation but may result in, and even compound, inequalities in terms of allocation or access. As such, the contradictions associated with the creation of unconventional water resources will continue to grow. In this rapidly evolving terrain, new critical research is needed to understand, expose and challenge these contradictions.

We are seeking papers that develop non-technical and critical understanding of desalination or wastewater reuse (or both). Although desalination and wastewater reuse are becoming prominent issues in the water sector, the non-technical scholarship about these issues is still incipient. Papers addressing issues of justice, inequality, political economy and socio-political conflicts around unconventional waters are most welcome. We are particularly interested in empirically-rich papers with substantial original research, although we will also consider review articles on wastewater re-use.

If you are interested in contributing to this special issue, please submit abstracts (of ca.400 words) to the guest editors by 15th June 2022.


Abstract submission deadline: 15th June 2022

Decision communicated to authors: 1st July 2022

Full paper submission deadline: 15th December 2022

Special Issue publication: June 2023

Guest editors

Joe Williams, Cardiff University, UK: williamsj168@cardiff.ac.uk

Pierre-Louis Mayaux, CIRAD, France: pierre-louis.mayaux@cirad.fr  

Ross Beveridge, University of Glasgow, UK: ross.beveridge@glasgow.ac.uk