Community desalination as new hydrosocial assemblages and scalar politics to satisfy the human right to water in Chile
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences & Department of Territorial Planning, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile; firstname.lastname@example.org
ABSTRACT: We propose a political-ecological approach to community desalination based on our experience installing small desalination plants in three coastal communities in southern Chile. Conceptually, we frame community desalination plants as new hydrosocial assemblages different from large-scale or extractivist desalination, discussing how social participation is key to the community’s reappropriation of nature through desalination plants. We use the literature of scalar politics in water governance as a device for analysing the ongoing political struggles around water and the role that community desalination can play in satisfying the human right to water. Through a multi-method and participatory approach, we demonstrate the situated nature of community desalination development in Chile. We identify three stages in the configuration of the new hydrosocial assemblages: negotiating the installation of the plants, valuing the drinking water produced by the plants, and negotiating to finance their definitive installation as a complementary source of drinking water for these communities. We also show that the community appropriation of these plants depends mainly on the water quality and the institutional arrangements to sustain these small plants over space and time. We analyse how the community scale interacts with municipal, regional, and national scales differently. Finally, we conclude by evaluating, from a hydrosocial perspective, the pros and cons of using this community desalination process to satisfy the human right to water.
KEYWORDS: Extractivist vs. community desalination, Agua Potable Rural (APR), social participation, small desalination plants, reappropriation of nature, water commons, Chile