Folder Issue 1



Transdisciplinary research in water sustainability: What’s in it for an engaged researcher-stakeholder community?

Laura Ferguson
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA;

Samuel Chan
Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA;

Mary V. Santelmann
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA;

Bryan Tilt
Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA;

ABSTRACT: This study uses semi-structured interviews and an online survey to explore the structure, challenges and outcomes of a five-year National Science Foundation-funded water scarcity modelling project in the Willamette River Basin of Oregon, USA. The research team chose to facilitate broader impacts by engaging stakeholders from the study’s inception (e.g. developing grant proposal, study implementations, defining model run scenarios) through its completion and extension of findings. The team used various engagement formats (field trips, small and large group meetings) and encountered many challenges, including the lack of a shared vision, different professional languages, research complexities and project management. Through stakeholder engagement the team overcame challenges, facilitated learning, and improved and extended the research process and results. Participation in engagement events was positively correlated with beneficial broader impact outcomes. We compare these outcomes with NSF’s five broader impact criteria: advance scientific discovery and understanding, broaden participation of underrepresented groups, enhance research infrastructure, broadly disseminate results, and benefit society. We show that stakeholder engagement is one method to achieve the five original NSF criteria and suggest that a sixth criterion can be achieved through stakeholder engagement – that of developing the research community.

KEYWORDS: Broader impacts, climate change, modelling, stakeholder engagement, Willamette River Valley


Rethinking water corporatisation: A ‘negotiation space’ for public and private interests, Colombia (1910-2000)

Kathryn Furlong
Department of Geography, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada;

Tatiana Acevedo Guerrero
UNESCO-IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, the Netherlands;

Jeimy Arias
Department of Geography, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada;

Camila Patiño Sanchez
Department of Geography, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada;

ABSTRACT: As part of neoliberal reforms to public service delivery, the corporatisation of water supply has been of increasing concern since the late 1990s. Typically, both promoters and detractors frame it within neoliberal theory: it is the next best (or worst) thing to privatisation, enabling the ostensibly independent, commercial and technical management of utilities. In Colombia, however, city-owned water supply corporations are far from new. They were adopted across the country’s main cities at the beginning of the 20th century. Colombia’s century-long experience with corporatised water supply is instructive. The case reveals a model that emerged in the context of challenges common to Southern cities, rather than as a 'solution' imposed from the North, the deep inter-linkages between public and private sectors in the evolution of publicly owned corporations and thus the limited nature of utility autonomy under corporatisation. In sum, corporatisation – imagined as a technology for the 'government of government' – cannot escape the shifting social realities in which it is immersed. It therefore emerges as a technology not for the excising of government authority but for the negotiation of public and private interests in (and influence over) utility services in contexts of relatively limited government autonomy from the private sector.

KEYWORDS: Public utilities, public and private interests, water supply, corporatisation, cross-subsidisation, neoliberalisation, Colombia


Groundwater, the state, and the creation of irrigation communities in Llanos del Caudillo, Spain

Alvar Closas
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Cairo, Egypt; and (at the time of the research) School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK;

ABSTRACT: This article explores the creation of new groundwater-based irrigation communities as a result of the internal colonisation projects of Franco’s government in the 1950s in La Mancha, Central Spain. The literature on Spain’s hydraulic mission has mainly focused on the use and mobilisation of large surface water projects as part of a state-driven modernisation mission promoting irrigation and water management infrastructure without much contextualisation or focus on its operationalisation at the local level. This paper complements this body of work by examining the local socio-political development of government-led irrigation plans in the colonisation town of Llanos del Caudillo. Moreover, the study of Spain’s hydro-politics and colonisation efforts usually focuses on surface water infrastructure while the public promotion of groundwater use has always been relegated to a second place, as it was mainly driven by private initiative. This paper substantiates the role of groundwater within Spain’s hydraulic mission and production of state-sponsored irrigated landscapes.

KEYWORDS: Groundwater, hydraulic mission, irrigation, colonisation, Spain



Reconceptualising water quality governance to incorporate knowledge and values: Case studies from Australian and Brazilian indigenous communities

Kate A. Berry
Department of Geography, University of Nevada, Reno, NV, USA;

Sue Jackson
Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia;

Laurel Saito
The Nature Conservancy, Reno, NV, USA;

Louis Forline
Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV, USA;

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the significance of knowledge and values for water quality and its governance. Modernist approaches to the governance of water quality in rivers and lakes need to be reconceptualised and overhauled. The problems include: perceiving water only as a physical and chemical liquid, defining quality in narrow terms, rendering water knowledge as invisible, boiling down water values to uses of presumed economic importance and limiting how and by whom objectives are set or actions taken. In addressing the need to reframe water quality governance, and as a counter to the objectification of water quality, we propose a framework that explicitly recognises the significance of knowledge and values relating to water. While our framework could apply to other contexts under the influence of modernist water-management regimes, here we pay particular attention to the relevance of the water knowledge, values and governance of water quality by Indigenous people. In the second half of the paper we address issues related to Indigenous water-quality governance in two countries, Brazil and Australia, showing some of the ways in which, despite enormous obstacles, Indigenous communities re-work governance structures through their engagements with water quality and pay attention to water knowledge and values.

KEYWORDS: Indigenous peoples, water quality management, Australia, Brazil


The paradox of social resilience: Explaining delays in water infrastructure provision in Kathmandu

Leong Ching
Institute of Water Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore;

ABSTRACT: One of the enduring puzzles within the management of water and other environmental resources is the sustained under-investment despite their critical importance. This paper brings together two emerging lines of research in answering this puzzle: first, that the blame-averse nature of governments leads them to avoid tackling issues which are perceived to have low payoff, and second, that the paradox of social resilience by which acts of coping with natural disasters and adverse events have led to a self-perception of resilience. While the motivations behind blame aversion are well researched, how the paradox of social resilience contributes to and interacts with such bureaucratic motivations remains little understood. Using a quantitative investigation of narratives of a more than 10-year delay to the Melamchi Water Supply Project in Kathmandu, Nepal, this paper reveals the dynamics of this interaction; it finds that a self-perception of resilience leads to narratives of low emotional intensity or 'valence', which in turn feed the perception of low payoffs for governments. This accentuates motivations of blame aversion, thus creating a vicious cycle of inaction. In Kathmandu, the self-perception of resilience is partly due to the coping mechanisms provided by a large, informal water-vending market. This paper suggests that one way of breaking the cycle is to increase the emotional intensity of the narratives by focusing on the true cost of coping with the delay in water supply. Our study further predicts that this vicious cycle is generally extant in policies with low negative valence – that is, in most environmental policies.

KEYWORDS: Water policies, public perceptions, social resilience, Q methodology, Kathmandu



Urban planning, water provisioning and infrastructural violence at public housing resettlement sites in Ahmedabad, India

Renu Desai
Centre for Urban Equity, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India;

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the links between urban planning and the politics of water provisioning and violence and conflict in people’s lives by drawing upon research in a low-income locality in Ahmedabad, India. By focusing on public housing sites constructed to resettle poor and low-income residents displaced from central and intermediate areas of the city for urban development projects, the paper looks beyond poor, informal neighbourhoods to explore the dynamics of water provisioning and inequalities in the city. A close examination of the water infrastructure at the sites and their everyday workings is undertaken in order to unravel the socio-material configurations which constitute inadequate water flows, and the ways in which urban planning, policies and governance produce infrastructural violence at the sites. It also traces the various forms of water-related deprivations, burdens, inequities, tensions and conflicts that emerge in people’s lives as a result of their practices in the context of this infrastructural violence.

KEYWORDS: Water, infrastructural violence, urban planning, public housing, resettlement, India


The waterways of Tangail: Failures to learn from flood-control efforts in the Brahmaputra Basin of Bangladesh

Crelis F. Rammelt
Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;

Zahed Md. Masud
AITAM Welfare Organisation, Janata Co-operative Housing Society, Dhaka, Bangladesh;

Arvid Masud
Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, The State University of New York, Buffalo, United States;

ABSTRACT: Traditional non-structural approaches to water management and flood protection in Bengal disappeared almost entirely under colonial and national water planning. The 1950s saw the rise of permanent and centrally regulated infrastructures for flood control, drainage and irrigation (FCD/I). A nationwide Flood Action Plan (FAP) in the 1990s reinforced this structural approach and included as one of its flagships of the FAP-20 component in the Tangail District. While essentially remaining a form of FCD/I, FAP-20 attempted to pay attention to social and ecological concerns. During its implementation (1991-2000), however, FAP-20 became highly controversial on both accounts. Eventually, it was phased out and not replicated elsewhere. Revisiting this particular project is as relevant as ever for several reasons. First, the article shows that its negative impacts are felt long after the project ended. To better understand these impacts, the present article provides a historical and contextual perspective on water governance in Bangladesh. Second, there seems to have been little learning from the FAP-20 experience. The project was not adequately evaluated, and lessons are therefore not assimilated by the design of subsequent water-sector projects (e.g. the Blue Gold plan). The article argues that a thorough evaluation is needed and can provide valuable insights for the development of more adaptive and inclusive approaches to water management.

KEYWORDS: Flood control, evaluation, Flood Action Plan, Blue Gold, Tangail, Bangladesh


Discourse analysis of the debate on hydroelectric dam building in Brazil

Antonio Aledo Tur
Department of Sociology I, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain;

Hugo García-Andreu
Department of Sociology I, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain;

Guadalupe Ortiz
Department of Sociology I, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain;

Jose Andres Domínguez-Gomez
Department of Sociology, Social Work and Public Health, University of Huelva, Huelva, Spain;

ABSTRACT: In recent years new hydroelectric dam projects in Brazil have led to intense debate across society. A range of different social actors have been engaged in these controversies, all of them deploying different discourses to legitimise their postures. This paper addresses the study of the discourses emerging around this debate in the case of two hydroelectric projects in the Cuenca del Alto Paraná River, and examines the way the multiple arguments emanating from the social actors are grouped together. On the basis of a content analysis of qualitative interviews a factor analysis was carried out to identify the groups of arguments. One of the main outcomes of this analysis highlighted the discursive isolation of a single social group – the people affected by the construction of the dams – in contrast to the other actors, who shared arguments grounded in techno-economic rationales. As opposed to this, those affected by the dam projects used arguments based on their emotions, identities and daily experiences of place; their perspectives were absent from the discourses of other actors.

KEYWORDS: Discourse analysis, storylines, hydropower, social impact, Brazil


"We need more data!" The politics of scientific information for water governance in the context of hydraulic fracturing

Michele-Lee Moore
Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Canada;

Karena Shaw
School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Canada;

Heather Castleden
Department of Geography and Planning, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Proposed and actual developments of hydraulic fracturing, as a high-volume water user, have proven contentious in recent years. However, one point of agreement has emerged amongst all actors with regards to water use and hydraulic fracturing: we need more data. This consensus fits with a longstanding reification of the role of data in water governance, and yet we argue it hides a politically contested terrain. Based on a literature review, an empirical Delphi study and a workshop with a diverse array of participants from across Canada, we explore the data needs related to water governance and hydraulic fracturing. We then investigate three areas of deficiency that point to a lack of trust and oversight as well as the exclusion of community and Indigenous knowledge. We argue that in an era of neoliberal approaches to water governance, issues of trust, accountability and transparency all link back to a diminished role for data management within existing water governance arrangements. The challenge is that simply collecting more data will not help decision-makers navigate the complexity of water governance. Our findings suggest a growing call by participants for greater engagement by governments in data collection and knowledge management, new funding mechanisms for data collection and re-thinking how and what to monitor if including multiple ways of knowing and values.

KEYWORDS: Hydraulic fracturing, neoliberalism, Indigenous peoples, water governance, accountability, data, science policy, Two-Eyed Seeing, Canada


Deliberative democracy in Canadian watershed governance

Margot Hurlbert
Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina, Regina, SK, Canada;

Evan Andrews
School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Bottom-up watershed governance that features citizen engagement in decision-making is touted as a panacea for better social and environmental outcomes. However, there is limited agreement on how exactly this engagement occurs, and how it can be assessed. Water decision-making may result in better social outcomes when decision-making is deliberative and democratic. This article brings together a cross-disciplinary framework to assess deliberative democratic practices in local water councils (LWCs) in the Prairie Provinces, Canada. We apply this framework to assess and compare LWCS, using data from a review of secondary sources and semi-structured qualitative interviews with members of LWCs. Our framework was useful for identifying strengths and shortcomings of deliberative democracy within and across LWCs. The strengths of the Manitoba model are its significant mandate and stable tax funding. Alberta’s strengths are in the areas of community representation and significant contested deliberation. Saskatchewan’s strengths are its interconnectedness with other organisations, sectors, and governments. While LWCs have made important contributions to local watershed governance, a consideration and comparison of deliberative democratic practices offers options for policy change strengthening the deliberative democratic practices of LWCs.

KEYWORDS: Deliberative democracy, watershed, water governance, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Canada