Community knowledge sharing and co-production of water services: Two cases of community aqueduct associations in Colombia

Valeria Llano-Arias
University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland; valeria.llanoarias@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: Local-level participatory communication practices have enabled the opening of new democratic spaces in which decisions on water policies are taken. Through their resistance to water privatisation policies, many Colombian community aqueducts have made use of a transformed political and social role. Citizens from community aqueduct associations are generating new forms of political participation and citizenship, capable of challenging the widespread political apathy in the country.

This article presents two case studies of community aqueduct associations in Colombia; exploring the scope of their communication and mobilisation actions in challenging power relations concerning water governance and in enhancing citizen participation in democratic actions. The article also explores how local water governance initiatives such as the development of a water management computer software with particular communitarian characteristics, can support local initiatives for political transformation and more sustainable water governance.

These new forms of citizenship based on claims of sovereignty over natural, common goods are gradually transforming Colombian democratic space. The article draws on debates around active citizenship, deepening democracy, and participatory communication approaches to explain the aims of community organisations and the mechanisms by which they are self-organising and managing water at the local level.

KEYWORDS: Community aqueducts, participatory communication, water governance, Colombia