Folder Issue 2





Barriers to drinking water security in rural Ghana: The vulnerability of people with disabilities

Benjamin Dosu
Department of Geography and Environment, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada;

Maura Hanrahan
Department of Geography and Environment, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Because it is a life-giving substance and one of the crucial components of good health and human survival, access to potable water has been recognised globally as a human rights issue. The current development paradigm also endorses inclusivity in development interventions, calling on leaders of countries to leave no one behind. In most developing countries, however, there seems to be a dilemma as to whether governments can achieve the 'all-inclusive agenda'. Among the most marginalised people are those with disabilities; in terms of access to potable water, this group is likely to face some of the greatest inequalities. Using a qualitative approach that employs in-depth interviews with members of three rural communities in Ghana, this study assesses the water security experiences of persons with disabilities (PWDs). The study identifies barriers such as social exclusion, stigma, distance and water costs, all of which make it difficult for PWDs to collect a sufficient quantity of potable water. Considering the need to achieve universal access to clean water globally, understanding access barriers is essential for rural water management policy decisions. We conclude that in order to enhance access to potable water by PWDs, it is imperative that their needs are assessed, that members of this group are included in rural water management decision-making, and that they are involved in the day-to-day management of drinking water facilities.

KEYWORDS: Water security, water access, water access barriers, rural Ghana, persons with disabilities




Institutional bricolage in irrigation governance in rural northwest China: Diversity, legitimacy, and persistence

Raymond Yu Wang
Center for Social Sciences, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China;

Tipeng Chen
School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China;

Oscar Bin Wang
Department of Politics and Public Administration, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China;

ABSTRACT: The emergence and development of diverse institutions is an important yet understudied subject in community-based irrigation governance. Drawing on empirical evidence gathered from 30 administrative villages located in the upstream Yellow River, northwest China, this paper builds on the theoretical perspective of institutional bricolage and adopts an interpretative approach to examining diversity, legitimacy and the persistence of different institutional modalities in the case-study area. It is shown that monocentric, polycentric, bureaucratic and individualised institutions emerge and co-exist in a relatively small area and have been sustained by various sources of legitimacy. Moreover, the process of legitimisation is heterogeneous, as the various institutional modalities have drawn their legitimacy from different sources. These may be both internal and external, synthesise and contradict simultaneously, and change as the irrigation institutions initiate, operate and evolve. The findings connect irrigation institutions with everyday practices, which are non-linear and uncertain, thus bringing about a more nuanced understanding of institutional bricolage and offering more in-depth explanations for the puzzles of why institutions demonstrate different characteristics in similar contexts and why some institutions persist when faced with challenges and tension.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation governance, institutions, bricolage, legitimacy, China


Seasonal land fallowing policy in response to groundwater overdraft in the north China Plain

Hongbo Deng
Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences; University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China;

Baozhu Guan
China Centre for Agricultural Policy, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China;

Jinxia Wang
China Centre for Agricultural Policy, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China;

Alec Zuo
Centre for Global Food and Resources, School of Economics and Public Policy, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide SA, Australia ;

Zhuanlin Wang
China Centre for Agricultural Policy, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China;

Tianhe Sun
Collaborative Innovation Centre for Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Integrated Development, Hebei University of Economics and Business, Shijiazhuang, China;

ABSTRACT: The Seasonal Land Fallowing Policy (SLFP), designed to mitigate serious groundwater overdraft in the North China Plain, was introduced in Hebei Province in 2014. This paper offers a comprehensive review and assessment of its implementation status, effectiveness and challenges. Based on data at both macro and micro levels, we witnessed the rapid expansion of the SLFP from 2014 to 2019. With a high targeting efficiency, the SLFP reduced groundwater consumption and contributed to real water saving. However, further analysis is needed on the influence of the SLFP on water levels. As a means of payment for ecosystem services, the current subsidy offered by the SLFP is not sufficiently flexible to reflect the heterogeneity in farmers’ opportunity cost. Obstacles to the effective and sustainable implementation of the SLFP include unstable and ineligible participants, insufficient incentive for farmers to shift surplus labour to off-farm jobs, and underuse of fallowed land. Based on these challenges, this paper offers policy suggestions to further aid the SLFP’s effective and sustainable implementation in the future.

KEYWORDS: Seasonal Land Fallowing Policy, Implementation, Groundwater Overdraft, Conservation of Groundwater Irrigation, North China Plain


Adaptation to quantitative regulation of agricultural water resources: Mosaic cropping pattern and rotational irrigation in China

Ying Chai
Economic School, Guangdong University of Finance and Economics, Guangzhou, China;

Yunmin Zeng
Institute of Environment and Development, Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, Guangzhou, China;

ABSTRACT: Quantitative regulation of agricultural water resources (QRW) is an effective means of reducing water demand and sustaining water development. Few studies, however, have investigated the mechanism underlying a region’s adaptation to QRW. In this study, we first establish an adaptive mechanism framework which incorporates rotational irrigation and cropping patterns a means of solving the problems of inefficiency, inequality and costly coordination that result from adaptation to QRW. Next, in order to examine the applicability of the theoretical framework, we refer to the case study of Xuwen County, Guangdong Province, China, where QRW was implemented by the Central Government in 2011. We find that a mosaic cropping pattern can enable rotational irrigation on a regional scale, which can cost-effectively mitigate the problems of inefficiency and inequitable allocation caused by QRW. We find that a diverse cropping pattern can provide a form of spatial rotational irrigation that requires less water than the temporal rotational irrigation required for a heterogeneous cropping pattern. Our findings have implications for irrigated agriculture and water resource conservation; they reveal that it is possible to decouple agricultural water supplies from crop growth through the implementation of QRW.

KEYWORDS: Quantitative regulation, cropping pattern, agricultural water resource management, rotational irrigation, China


Japanese irrigation management at the crossroads

Masayoshi Satoh
University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan;

Atsushi Ishii
University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan;

ABSTRACT: To achieve the goals of irrigation projects, governments need to ensure appropriate operations and maintenance. The Japanese government has established a national-level participatory irrigation management (PIM) approach since 17th century and the Japanese farmers presently operate and maintain entire irrigation systems at their own cost under the Land Improvement Act enacted in 1949. However, whether this Japanese system is relevant to other countries remains unclear. This paper aims to characterise the PIM system in detail; it analyses its background conditions and extracts implications for successful PIM methodology. To that end, we mobilised and compared all relevant information regarding legal aspects, practices and statistics. We concluded that: 1) farmers’ involvement from the initial planning stages – which is a requirement of the Japanese government’s application system for irrigation projects – is critical if projects are to succeed; 2) resolving farmers’ conflicts and coordination in advance are the key to success; 3) while transferring all facility management to the farmer irrigation association known as the Land Improvement District (LID), the government must constantly supervise and support the LID; 4) the experiences of Japan are relevant to countries that have small-scale farming systems; and 5) there is a rapid shift underway in the primary actors of Japanese agriculture in rural villages, from many small-scale farmers to a limited number of large-scale farmers. This transformation may require reshaping the Japanese model to adapt to new circumstances.

KEYWORDS: Participatory irrigation management, mura (a feudal village of Japan), farmer cooperation, indirect government intervention, large-scale farmers, Japan


Bureaucratising co-production: Institutional adaptation of irrigation associations in Taiwan

Wai-Fung Lam
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong;

Ching-Ping Tang
National Chengchi University, Taiwan;

Shih-Ko Tang
National Chengchi University, Taiwan;

ABSTRACT: In 2020, Taiwan’s 17 irrigation associations were bureaucratised to become management offices of the Irrigation Agency under the government’s Council of Agriculture. This change marked the end of the parastatal mode of irrigation management that has in past decades played an important role in fostering Taiwan’s agricultural and economic development. As these parastatals have always been hailed by the international water research community as exemplars of co-production and state-community synergy, the change is baffling. While irrigation management in many places around the world has been moving towards a higher degree of decentralisation and self-governance, Taiwan seems to be moving in the opposite direction. How can we make sense of this change? What are the driving forces behind it? Does the bureaucratisation of the irrigation associations signify a failure of the co-production model? By tracing the evolution of irrigation institutions in Taiwan, this study examines the dynamic of institutional change as a response to the island’s changing political economy. The study shows that changes in the macropolitical-economic context prompted the Taiwanese government to reconsider two imperatives that underlie the institutional design of irrigation associations: robustness trade-offs and the modus operandi of co-production. The bureaucratisation of irrigation associations was an institutional manifestation of the adjustment of the two imperatives in adapting to the changing political economy.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation associations, robustness trade-offs, co-production, institutional change, Taiwan


Digital innovations and water services in cities of the global South: A systematic literature review

Godfred Amankwaa
Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, UK;

Richard Heeks
Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, UK;

Alison L Browne
Department of Geography, University of Manchester, UK;

ABSTRACT: Increasing implementation of digital water innovations in cities of the Global South has been accompanied by a growth in research on this topic. This paper presents a first systematic literature review of this domain, analysing a total of 43 papers using a range of thematic categorisations. Overall profiling finds literature to be recent, limited in its engagement with theorisation or methodology, and with some disciplinary, geographic and method gaps. Research has been conservative with regards to the technologies covered, with a provider-centric, rather than a user- or government-centric leaning. Impact findings are skewed towards benefits more than disbenefits, and towards impacts on providers and users rather than towards the broader socio-environmental impacts. The paper ends by laying out a future research agenda that particularly emphasises the value of more contextualised sociotechnical and sociopolitical research.

KEYWORDS: Digital technologies, digital water innovations, urban water, Global South, systematic literature review




Source-to-sea river journeys and their politics of scale and knowledge production: Examining Colorado River expeditions from the United States through Mexico

Adrianne C. Kroepsch
Division of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, US;

Caleb Ring
Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, US;

Joanna Clark
Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, US;

ABSTRACT: In this article we examine an increasingly popular form of water activism – the source-to-sea river journey and its associated narrative – in order to understand its proliferation and implications for water discourse. We focus on source-to-sea journeys on the Colorado River because of the robust dataset that this river provides. On the Colorado, we find that, in addition to producing a compelling adventure tale, the source-to-sea journey has evolved to become an unofficial methodology for assessing the cumulative environmental impacts of human development on the river. This bootstrapped methodology challenges the epistemological status quo in the Colorado River Basin by establishing an alternative way of knowing the river and a new type of river expert. It does this by repositioning the observational scale at which the river is known: downscaling the resolution of environmental knowledge production to the scale of the individual body, while also upscaling it in extent to the scale of the full river basin. We discuss the implications of these journeys and narratives for water discourse, with an emphasis on what they render visible and what they leave invisible.

KEYWORDS: Knowledge production, scale, narrative, activism, Colorado River


South Asian dams at a tipping point? The case of Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur, India

Thounaojam Somokanta
Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel;

Eran Feitelson
Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel;

Amit Tubi
Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel;

ABSTRACT: While dam building has declined in most developed economies, it has seen an increase in emerging economies, particularly in East and South Asia. Even there, however, such dams are facing mounting opposition. This raises the prospect that dam building is nearing a global tipping point. In this study, we examine the case of the Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur, one of the states in India's peripheral northeast. We ask how such a major project was stopped despite support from powerful national- and regional-level actors. To analyse this case, we build on the Advocacy Coalition Framework and the analytical concepts of growth coalitions and discourse coalitions. The joint application of these concepts enables us to link global advocacy coalitions with local pro- and anti-growth coalitions through the storylines they advance, thereby formulating multiscalar discourse coalitions. This allows us to follow the struggles between pro-dam and anti-dam coalitions, as well as trace the shifts in the composition and focus of coalitions over the 75 years since the Tipaimukh Dam was first proposed.

KEYWORDS: Water, emerging economies, discourse coalitions, storylines, Indigenous people, India


Disadvantaged unincorporated communities and the struggle for water justice in California

Jonathan K. London
Department of Human Ecology, University of California Davis, Davis, USA;

Amanda L. Fencl
Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, USA;

Sara Watterson
Center for Regional Change, University of California Davis, Davis USA;

Yasmina Choueiri
Geography Graduate Group, University of California Davis, Davis, USA;

Phoebe Seaton
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Sacramento, USA;

Jennifer Jarin
School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, USA;

Mia Dawson
Geography Graduate Group, University of California Davis, Davis, USA;

Alfonso Aranda
Geography Graduate Group, University of California Davis, Davis, USA;

Aaron King
Luhdorff and Scalmanini Consulting Engineers Davis, USA;

Peter Nguyen
Geography Graduate Group, University of California Davis, Davis, USA;

Camille Pannu
Water Justice Clinic, Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies, UC Davis School of Law, Davis, USA;

Laurel Firestone
Community Water Center, Sacramento, USA;

Colin Bailey
Consultant, Sacramento, USA;

ABSTRACT: This article maps a meshwork of formal and informal elements of places called Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities (DUCs) to understand the role of informality in producing unjust access to safe drinking water in California’s San Joaquin Valley. It examines the spatial, racial, and class-based dimensions of informality. The paper aims to both enrich the literature on informality studies and use the concept of informality to expand research on DUCs and water access. We use socio-spatial analyses of the relationships between informality and water justice to reach the following conclusions: DUCs face severe problems in access to safe drinking water; disparities in access have a spatial dimension; inequities in water access are racialised; the proximity of DUCs to safe drinking water offers good potential for improved water access; and the challenges of informality are targeted through water justice advocacy and public policy.

KEYWORDS: Drinking water, human right to water, Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities, informality, California


Below the radar: Data, narratives and the politics of irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa

Jean-Philippe Venot
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement and University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France;

Samuel Bowers
School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK;

Dan Brockington
Sheffield Institute for International Development, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK;

Hans Komakech
Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania;

Casey Ryan
School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK;

Gert Jan Veldwisch
Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands;

Philip Woodhouse
Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK;

ABSTRACT: Emerging narratives call for recognising and engaging constructively with small-scale farmers who have a leading role in shaping the current irrigation dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper explores whether new irrigation data can usefully inform these narratives. It argues that, for a variety of reasons, official irrigation data in sub-Saharan Africa fails to capture the full extent and diverse nature of irrigation and its rapid distributed growth over the last two decades. The paper investigates recent trends in the use of remote sensing methods to generate irrigation data; it examines the associated expectation that these techniques enable a better understanding of current irrigation developments and small-scale farmers’ roles. It reports on a pilot study that uses radar-based imagery and analysis to provide what are indeed new insights into the extent of rice irrigated agriculture in three regions of Tanzania. We further stress that such mapping exercises remain grounded in a binary logic that separates 'irrigation' from other 'non-irrigated' landscape features. They can stem from, and buttress, a conventional understanding of irrigation that is still influenced by colonial legacies of engineering design and agricultural modernisation. As farmers’ initiatives question this dominant view of irrigation, and in a policy context that is dominated by narratives of water scarcity, this means that new data may improve the visibility of water use by small-scale irrigators but may also leave them more exposed to restrictions favouring more powerful water users. The paper thus calls for moving away from a narrow debate on irrigation data and monitoring, and towards a holistic discussion of the nature of irrigation development in sub-Saharan Africa. This discussion is necessary to support a constructive engagement with farmer-led irrigation development; it is also challenging in that it involves facing entrenched vested interests and requires changes in development practices.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation, small-scale farming, remote sensing, water resource governance, data politics, narratives, sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania


A 'drought-free' Maharashtra? Politicising water conservation for rain-dependent agriculture

Sameer H. Shah
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability (IRES), The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada;

Leila M. Harris
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability (IRES) and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice (GRSJ), The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada;

Mark S. Johnson
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability (IRES) and the Department of Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada;

Hannah Wittman
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability (IRES) and the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Soil moisture conservation ('green water') and runoff capture ('blue water') can reduce agricultural risks to rainfall variation. However, little is known about how such conjoined initiatives articulate with social inequity when up-scaled into formal government programmes. In 2014, the Government of Maharashtra institutionalised an integrative green-blue water conservation campaign to make 5000 new villages drought-free each year (2015-2019). This paper analyses the extent to which the campaign, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, enhanced the capture, equity, and sustainability of water for agricultural risk reduction. We find government interests to demonstrate villages as 'drought-free' affected the character and implementation of this integrative campaign. First, drainage-line and waterbody initiatives were disproportionately implemented over land-based adaptations to redress water scarcity. Second, initiatives were concentrated on public land – and less so on agricultural plots – to achieve drought-free targets. Third, the campaign conflated raising overall village water availability with improvements in water access. These dynamics: 1) limited the potential impact of water conservation; 2) excluded residents, including members of historically disadvantaged groups, who did not possess the key endowments and entitlements needed to acquire the benefits associated with drought-relief initiatives; and 3) fuelled additional groundwater extraction, undermining water conservation efforts. Villages will not be drought-free unless water conservation benefits are widespread, accessible, and long-term.

KEYWORDS: Agriculture, drought, water conservation, inequity, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, India




Understanding inter-municipal conflict and cooperation on flood risk policies for the metropolitan city of Milan

Corinne Vitale
Institute for Management Research (IMR), Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands;

Sander Meijerink
Institute for Management Research (IMR), Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: Due to hydrological dependencies within catchment areas, the development and implementation of urban flood risk policies require cooperation between upstream and downstream municipalities. Such cooperation may be difficult to realise in practice due to the diverging interests of these municipalities, which might result in upstream-downstream conflicts. In this paper, we aim to gain a better understanding of inter-municipal conflict and cooperation on flood risk policies for the Seveso River Basin in the Metropolitan City of Milan. The Transboundary Waters Interaction NexuS (TWINS) model is used to describe the evolution of conflict and cooperation, and the shift towards the securitisation of flood risk management in the basin. The politicised Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework is used to gain a better understanding of decision-making on Seveso flood risk policies. It is concluded that the ever-increasing frequency, and damage caused by flood events, together with an institutional setting which is characterised by power asymmetry between the Metropolitan City of Milan and upstream municipalities, and a dominant engineering resilience discourse have resulted in the securitisation of the Seveso’s issues. The securitisation is characterised by a closed decision-making process, which may explain the resistance by actors not involved in decision-making and thus, the emergence of new conflicts.

KEYWORDS: Flood risk management, urban flood resilience, upstream-downstream relationships, nature-based solutions, institutional analysis, Transboundary Waters Interaction NexuS (TWINS), Milan, Italy




Irrigation management in East Asia: Institutions, socio-economic transformation and adaptations

Raymond Yu Wang
Center for Social Sciences, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China;

Wai-Fung Lam
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong;

Jinxia Wang
China Centre for Agricultural Policy, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China;

ABSTRACT: Irrigation management encapsulates human capacity for building and sustaining collective cooperation, which is directed at the allocation and utilisation of water as a common-pool resource. Although rooted in rural communities, irrigation management is also subject to macro socio-economic and ecological settings that mediate micro human-nature relations. In East Asia, the long-established tradition of irrigation management has been confronting a series of new challenges such as an ageing and decreasing rural populations, increasing regional and sectoral competition for water, the growing influence of neoliberalism, and shifting public policies that reshape state-society-market interactions. This Special Issue aims at revisiting irrigation management in East Asia against the backdrop of rapid socio-economic transformation. In this introductory article, we set the scene by illustrating why the understanding of irrigation management should be situated in a broader socio-economic and political context. We then briefly summarise the key findings of the collection of papers in this Special Issue. It is shown that external challenges do not necessarily lead to the failure of irrigation management. New features of irrigation practices (for example, institutional reinvention and restructuring) may emerge as public, communal and private actors who co-manage irrigation systems respond and adapt to societal and environmental changes.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation, institutions, socio-economic transformation, adaptation, East Asia




The decline of canal irrigation in China: Causes, impacts and implications

Yahua Wang
School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China;

Mengdi Cao
School of Government, Peking University, Beijing, China;

ABSTRACT: Irrigation is key for agricultural production and public affairs in China. Canal irrigation has been the dominant form of irrigation in China for over two thousand years, but this is changing dramatically in contemporary China. Official government data and observational studies prove that canal irrigation has sharply declined in China in the past several decades. This paper explores the causes and influences associated with this decline. We use the social-ecological systems (SES) framework to diagnose the causes of the decline of canal irrigation and identify the significant influences on it. The broader contextual variables of industrialisation, urbanisation, policy, marketisation and technological progress influence resource systems, farmers and governance systems, which, in turn, have jointly led to the decline of canal irrigation. This study also considers the economic, social and ecological consequences of such a shift in irrigation pattern. The decline of canal irrigation may be inevitable in the transformation from a rural to a modern society. However, we must be aware of its costs and risks. To maintain the effectiveness of rural irrigation during the transformation to a modern society, we propose three implications of the decline of canal irrigation.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation transformation, commons, social-ecological systems (SES) framework, rural governance, public systems, China