Folder Issue 2





Viewpoint − Water Innovation for a circular economy: The contribution of grassroots actors

Rafael Ziegler
GETIDOS, University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany;

ABSTRACT: European policy discourse on circular economy tends to focus on innovation in relation to business and especially industry. Research suggests, however, that in order to achieve successful transitions to circular economy all social actors must be considered. Institutional pluralism and a variety of modes of provision – market, public and communal – offer a framework for research on water innovation and circular economy not limited only to markets. The paper explores such a comprehensive perspective, with a focus on grassroots innovations and their contribution to circular economy. An exploratory study of three cases of such water innovation highlights the civic, communal, and nature conservation values that these innovations advance. It also points to alternative land and water use options, along with complementary practices beyond a purely efficiency-oriented focus. For innovation policy, it suggests a focus on the support of civil networks and their coordination capacities.

KEYWORDS: Circular economy, social innovation, grassroots innovation, water ethics, water innovation, European Union


The new water wars: Struggles for remunicipalisation

David A. McDonald
Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Canada; and Director of the Municipal Services Project;

Erik Swyngedouw
School of Environment, Education and Development, The University of Manchester, UK;

ABSTRACT: Remunicipalisation is one of the most significant shifts in water services policy in a generation. After 30 years of privatisation, hundreds of cities around the world have taken water services back into public control, and the pace appears to be growing. There are forces that may slow or reverse this trend, however, with private water companies increasingly concerned about the impact that remunicipalisation will have on future profits, international financial institutions that remain broadly supportive of private sector participation in water services, fiscal austerity that forces local governments to abandon plans for remunicipalisation, and legal barriers. There are also diverse – even contradictory – motivations for remunicipalisation, putting into question its future as a coherent policy trend. This Special Issue seeks to advance our understanding of these broad international trends – identifying key stakeholders and investigating the nature of their support for, or opposition to, remunicipalisation – thereby shedding light on the ways in which these actors and ideas impact local and global policymaking. It looks at successes and failures in the remunicipalisation arena, with new case studies and extensive interviews with major powerbrokers in the water sector. Our hypothesis is that remunicipalisation will continue to grow in the medium term due to widespread dissatisfaction with privatisation on the part of elected officials, civil servants and citizens, but that differences within the remunicipalisation movement, combined with ongoing fiscal restraints and growing resistance from powerful multilateral actors, may make it difficult to sustain this growth without significant changes to strategy, engagement and resources, yielding useful lessons for remunicipalisation in other sectors as well.

KEYWORDS: Remunicipalisation, urban water supply, research, challenges



Legal barriers to remunicipalisation? Trade agreements and investor-state investment protection in water services

Britta Kynast
Head of Brussels Office of the Österreichischer Rechtsanwaltskammertag (Austrian Bar), Brussels, Belgium;

ABSTRACT: This article analyses the relevance of investment protection rules as they relate to the remunicipalisation of water services. It describes why investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is deemed to be controversial and provides case-law examples. The article focuses on treaty provisions as they relate to the process of remunicipalisation, such as the fair and equitable treatment standard and specific clauses, and highlights where future challenges might come into play, such as environmental issues, which are directly or indirectly related to water scarcity or discussions of water as a human right. The role of municipalities, with regard to both the negotiations of free trade agreements (FTAs) and actual ISDS proceedings, is described. Analysis is accompanied by concrete advice for local actors and communities, demonstrating how challenges for remunicipalisation can be addressed, with regard to both existing FTAs and future negotiations of trade agreements.




Will the empire strike back? Powerbrokers and remunicipalisation in the water sector

David A. McDonald
Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Canada; and Director of the Municipal Services Project;

ABSTRACT: Literature on remunicipalisation in the water sector has focused almost entirely on the ambitions, practices and ideologies of people and organisations that are in favour of publicly owned and managed water services. By contrast, little is known about what private water companies and mainstream water organisations have to say on the subject. This paper puts forward the results of interviews with 47 such organisations, offering the first rigorous insights into what these institutions know about water remunicipalisation, why they think it is happening, and what (if any) plans they have to engage with it in the future. The results are both predictable and surprising, demonstrating a clear concern about remunicipalisation on the part of private firms but a remarkable lack of knowledge about where and why it is happening, and no obvious plans to counteract this trend beyond fighting it on a case by case basis. Multilateral institutions, NGOs and water associations insist on being 'neutral' when it comes to questions of public versus private water delivery, although this position is undermined by practices which tend to favour private sector provision. There does not appear to be any coordinated anti-remunicipalisation movement, but a lack of enthusiasm for it from influential global water organisations suggests that advocates of remunicipalisation can expect little in the way of support from 'powerbrokers' in the water sector.

KEYWORDS: Remunicipalisation, water, multilaterals, aid agencies, private companies, NGOs



The deadlock of metropolitan remunicipalisation of water services management in Barcelona

Hug March
Estudis d’Economia i Empresa & Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain;

Mar Grau-Satorras
Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Castelldefels, Spain;

David Saurí
Departament de Geografia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain;

Erik Swyngedouw
School of Environment, Education and Development, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK;

ABSTRACT: This article chronicles the complex, meandering, contested, and path-dependent unfolding of the remunicipalisation agenda pursued by a range of political forces and social movements in Barcelona as it has developed over the past few years. The remunicipalisation of water services management debate in the city has been marked by increasingly convoluted and intricately intertwined and enmeshed institutional configurations, legal controversies, entrenched and contested political positions, and sustained social activism. The case of Barcelona’s water supply system is emblematic of the difficulties, resistances, and contradictions that open up when a long-standing status quo is challenged by the rising momentum of an oppositional agenda. The article narrates the unfolding of the controversy, demonstrating how the institutional configuration of water supply, which is organised at a metropolitan-regional level (comprising 22 municipalities and the city of Barcelona), multiplies contestations and controversies as local governments and their power coalitions respond differently to pressures and demands for remunicipalisation. In the first part of the article, we present a brief history of the private water supply system that has been in place in Barcelona since the 19th century with a particular emphasis on the complex architecture of its post-dictatorship institutional reconfiguration. The second part focuses explicitly on the making of a water controversy during the last decade when social and political demands for remunicipalisation intensified. The third part explores the present institutional, legal, and political deadlock, concluding with possible future avenues for the remunicipalisation debate (and its associated political possibilities) as well as other avenues to strengthen the metropolitan governance of water beyond the remunicipalisation debate.

KEYWORDS: Remunicipalisation, privatisation, public-private partnerships, water governance, Barcelona, Spain


The struggle for public water in Marseille, France

Susan Jane Spronk
School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON Canada;

Emilie Sing
School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON Canada;

ABSTRACT: Marseille is presented here as an unsuccessful case study of remunicipalisation. While there have been a number of cases in France where water and sanitation services have been successfully returned to public control, remunicipalisation remains the exception rather than the rule. In 2013, a small group of local activists in Marseille attempted without success to cancel a concession contract with Société des Eaux de Marseille (SEM), a subsidiary of Veolia and one of the largest and most powerful water companies in the world. We argue that the contract in Marseille may be one of the hardest to break in France since water and sanitation have been delivered by Veolia since the late 19th century. Given the legal barriers and the deep influence of Veolia over Marseille’s political economy, remunicipalisation is unlikely in the absence of a major scandal related to corruption or the quality and pricing of water and sanitation services.

KEYWORDS: Urban water supply, remunicipalisation, social movements, public–private partnerships, Marseille, France


Power asymmetries and limits to eminent domain: The case of Missoula water’s municipalisation

Cory L. Mann
City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA;

Mildred E. Warner
City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA;

ABSTRACT: In 2017, the City of Missoula, Montana, in the western United States, successfully used its powers of eminent domain to take ownership of its water system from The Carlyle Group, a large international private equity firm. The Missoula case provides a lens to investigate the promises and pitfalls of eminent domain as a tool for (re)municipalisation. The case study focuses on the challenges of the eminent domain (or condemnation) process, including the assessment of fair market value. Information and power asymmetries make it difficult for public actors – the mayor, judge, and Public Services Commission (PSC) – to negotiate with private owners. Rising legal costs and increasing asset value make timing of essence, but the condemnation process is often protracted. The findings suggest that while municipalities may be able to use eminent domain to retake their water supply, it is no guarantee. Success depends on the nature of the stateʼs eminent domain law, the ability to provide evidence of public value, the technical decisions of the PSC and the courts, and the political and financial support within the municipality for remunicipalisation and the eminent domain process. Increasing power asymmetries between municipalities and international private equity firms raise questions about the future of water regulation and, as costs escalate, about the ability of municipal governments to pursue eminent domain as part of a remunicipalisation strategy.

KEYWORDS: Remunicipalisation, eminent domain, private equity, water, United States


Water justice will not be televised: Moral advocacy and the struggle for transformative remunicipalisation in Jakarta

Emanuele Lobina
Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), Department of International Business and Economics, University of Greenwich;

Vera Weghmann
Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), Department of International Business and Economics, University of Greenwich;

Marwa Semesta
Development Planning Unit, University College London;

ABSTRACT: Aiming to advance our understanding of the transformative potential of remunicipalisation, this paper looks at the uncertain and unequal struggle for water remunicipalisation in Jakarta over the last 20 years, and offers an ontological account of the discourse on the human right to water as a catalyst for progressive policy change. A first, formal definition of transformative remunicipalisation is herein offered. This is defined as an ideal type of water remunicipalisation whose institutional legitimacy rests on the moral advocacy of emancipatory insurgency and whose implementation offers concrete possibilities of progress towards emancipatory objectives. With regard to moral advocacy and collective action, the hybridisation of emancipatory discourse enables transcendence of the limitations of the Western concept of the human right to water. By drawing on cross-cultural principles like 'water as life' and the primacy of human flourishing, the proponents of transformative remunicipalisation may turn the human right to water into a powerful discursive resource responding to Southern, if not universal, logics of appropriateness. While water justice is the terrain of inevitable contestation, the tensions between the normative ideals of collective action and the practice of advocacy require the constant reinterpretation of these ideals. This is why water justice will not be televised.

KEYWORDS: Water justice, human right to water, moral advocacy, transformative remunicipalisation, Jakarta, Indonesia


Which way will the winds blow? Post-privatisation water struggles in Sofia, Bulgaria

Georgi Medarov
Bulgarian Academy of Science, Bulgaria,

David A. McDonald
Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Canada; and Director of the Municipal Services Project;

ABSTRACT: The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s gave rise to widespread experimentation with neoliberal policy across much of the former Soviet sphere of influence. Nowhere was this more evident than in Bulgaria which has been a hotbed of neoliberal reform since the late 1990s, including the introduction of a water concession in Sofia in 1999. This paper critically examines efforts to remunicipalise water in the city. We argue that there is widespread support for water remunicipalisation but it is highly fractured along ideological and institutional lines. Bringing water services back in house is a real possibility but a progressive outcome is far from assured, with far-right nationalists keen to make water public for their own cronyist agenda and with neoliberal forces potentially demanding a commercialised public water utility. There is another more progressive possibility, but one that will require sensitive multi-stakeholder coalition-building (including with Romani communities) and longer-term cultural shifts in public service ethos. We conclude by arguing that progressive organisations in Sofia have no choice but to start mobilising now for the kind of public water operator they want to see when the private contract with Veolia ends in 2025.

KEYWORDS: Remunicipalisation, Veolia, post-socialist, post-neoliberal, Sofia, Bulgaria



Moving beyond the commons/commodity dichotomy: The socio-political complexity of Peru’s water crisis

Karsten Paerregaard
Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden;

Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen
Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark;

ABSTRACT: How is water best managed – as a common good or a commercial product? This is the key question of this paper that serves as introduction to a special section on Peru’s water crisis. The theoretical point of departure is Karen Bakker’s (2007) discussion of water as "a commons versus a commodity" and the conceptual pitfalls and political dilemmas the dichotomy poses. The paper argues that in order to understand the social and political tensions not only in Peru but also in other countries suffering chronic and potential water shortage we must move beyond the idea that water is best managed as either a commons or a commodity. Rather, the paper suggests, we need to examine water governance as a multi-faceted and complex activity in which water exceeds the dichotomy and sometimes takes the form of commons and commodity at the same time. Unpacking the conceptual baggage of the commons/commodity dichotomy, as well as that of each term separately, the paper problematises their use in the study of Peru’s water governance. To illustrate the intricate and often unexpected ways in which water is claimed, accessed and allocated in Peru, it introduces the five studies that comprise the special section, concluding that only by providing in-depth, ethnographic descriptions of the country’s water governance can we gain insight into its socio-political complexity and propose alternatives to its water crisis.

KEYWORDS: Water crisis, water governance, commodity, commons, Peru


Designing institutions for watershed management: A case study of the Urmia Lake Restoration National Committee

Jalil Salimi
Technology Foresight Group, Department of Management, Science and Technology, Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic), Tehran, Iran;

Reza Maknoon
Technology Foresight Group, Department of Management, Science and Technology, Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic), Tehran, Iran;

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

ABSTRACT: One of the prescriptions of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is to organise water resources management on a watershed or basin scale, which usually involves the establishment of special-purpose organisations. This paper contributes to the discussion on the functioning of these organisations and, more specifically, on the relationship between their institutional design and their performance. An in-depth case study of the Urmia Lake Restoration National Committee (ULRNC) in Iran reveals that the committee has been successful in drafting ambitious plans and policies for restoring Urmia Lake. However, there is a serious risk of implementation failure due to contradictory national policy agendas of lake restoration and agricultural development, insufficient budget allocation for realising the restoration plan, lack of provincial accountability for the spending of resources made available for the implementation of restoration measures, and potential future political instability which may lead to less attention to the restoration process.

KEYWORDS: Watershed management, river basin organisation, institutional analysis, Urmia Lake, Iran


Assembling commons and commodities: The Peruvian water law between ideology and materialisation

Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen
Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark;

ABSTRACT: The Peruvian water resources law of 2009 (Ley de Recursos Hídricos 29338) gathers contrasting – even divergent – intentions and interests; it discursively projects water to be a national common good and an economic good. The ideas behind the law connect to global currents that promote the marketisation of water rights and commodification of water services. This paper will use a historical account of water legislation in Peru as well as detailed ethnographic attention to the implementation of the water law and its infrastructure of governance in the city of Arequipa and the Quilca-Chili river basin to analyse how the law functions as an interplay between its official text and the ways state officials use it in specific encounters with users and stakeholders. Such encounters vary and have different outcomes, at times presenting openings for groups of actors to gain influence, and at other times excluding participation. A clear-cut analytical common/commodity dichotomy is of little use when trying to understand the dynamics of governance around water in present-day Arequipa and Peru. This paper suggests 'assembling' as analytic to grasp how public and private, marketised and commodified interests come together in the implementation of the law of water resources.

KEYWORDS: Water legislation, water governance, integrated water resource management, State, ethnography, Peru


Liquid accountability: Water as a common, public and private good in the Peruvian Andes

Karsten Paerregaard
Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden;

ABSTRACT: Taking its point of departure from the debate on 'water as commodity' versus 'water as commons', the article compares recent changes in the water governance of two rural communities in the Peruvian Andes. It draws on the anthropological tradition of controlled comparison to examine the different ways that the state and other external agents have accelerated the commodification of water in these communities and challenged their notions of water rights and water accountability. The article suggests that water is commodified through three kinds of transaction: as tribute-for-usage, which is used to manage water as a common good; as tax/tariff-for-right, which is used to manage water as a public good; and as ticket-for-product, which is used to manage water as a private good. It argues that Peru’s water users, rather than considering these three types of transactions to be conflicting forms of accountability, view them as complementary relations of exchange with the agents that control the water flow in their communities and regulate their water supply. It also proposes that, rather than being a one-way process that moves from communal control towards commercialisation and privatisation, the commodification of water is inherent in the water management of Peru’s highland communities. The article concludes that in a time of climate change and growing water scarcity the communities are keeping as many options open as possible. Managing water as at the same time a common, public and private good, and accounting for their water use to not one but several water providers, is therefore an important priority for these communities.

KEYWORDS: Water management, water accountability, water as commons, commodification of water, ethnographic comparison, Peru, Andes


Making the megaproject: Water infrastructure and hydrocracy at the public-private interface in Peru

Susann Baez Ullberg
Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden;

ABSTRACT: To meet an increasing industrial and urban demand for water in a context of water scarcity in Peru, the state has invested heavily in hydraulic megaprojects to ensure water supply to citizens and corporations. The Majes Siguas Special Project (PEMS) in the Arequipa Region is an example of such a water infrastructure project. While the first stage of PEMS, built in the 1980s, was financed and run by the Peruvian government, the second stage that is currently underway is being co-financed and built by a private transnational consortium that will run the infrastructure for 20 years. This can be understood as a process of temporary commodification of the water infrastructure and places the hydraulic megaproject at the heart of tensions between seeing water infrastructure as public utility and seeing it as private provision. This article asks how this tension between public and private is played out in practice within the hydraulic bureaucracy and examines ethnographically how the Majes Siguas Special Project is made over time by way of the everyday practices of experts. The study finds that these experts anticipate the potential political effects of temporary commodification of water infrastructures to be both a risk and a distinct possibility. The article argues that building, maintaining and managing hydraulic megaprojects are far from straightforward processes, but should instead be understood as open-ended experimental reconfigurations that the hydrocracy deals with through contingent practices of knowledge.

KEYWORDS: Megaprojects, water infrastructures, public-private partnerships, build-operate-transfer (BOT) model, temporary commodification, hydrocracy, expertise, Majes Siguas Special Project, Peru


The formalisation of water use and conditional ownership in Colca Valley, Peru

Astrid B. Stensrud
Department of Global Development and Planning, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway;

ABSTRACT: This article discusses the production and negotiation of water ownership among peasant farmers in the Majes-Colca watershed in southern Peru, where the public water administration initiated a process of formalising user rights for potable water in 2011. While a large-scale irrigation project channels water from the headwaters to export-oriented agriculture in the desert, the supply of water is getting scarcer because of climate change. The Peruvian water resources law from 2009 acknowledges water as public property, yet emphasises its economic value and encourages private investment. The farmers in the highlands see water not only as a resource but also as a life-giving force provided by the mountain-beings to the humans living in their domains. Seeing ownership as an on-going and dynamic process, and 'commoning' as made by practices of nurture, the article argues that conditional forms of ownership emerge from relationships of reciprocity between humans and other-than-human beings. These are modes of ownership that exceed the dichotomies of private-public, commons-commodity and subject-object.

KEYWORDS: Water, ownership, formalisation, the state, nurture, Andes, Peru


Water as more than commons or commodity: Understanding water management practices in Yanque, Peru

Malene K. Brandshaug
Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden;

ABSTRACT: Global warming, shrinking glaciers and water scarcity pose challenges to the governance of fresh water in Peru. On the one hand, Peruʼs water management regime and its legal framework allow for increased private involvement in water management, commercialisation and, ultimately, commodification of water. On the other hand, the state and its 2009 Water Resource Law emphasise that water is public property and a common good for its citizens. This article explores how this seeming paradox in Peruʼs water politics unfolds in the district of Yanque in the southern Peruvian Andes. Further, it seeks to challenge a commons/commodity binary found in water management debates and to move beyond the underlying hegemonic view of water as a resource. Through analysing state-initiated practices and practices of a more-than-human commoning – that is, practices not grounded in a human/nature divide, where water and other non-humans participate as sentient persons – the article argues that in Yanque many versions of water emerge through the heterogeneous practices that are entangled in water management.

KEYWORDS: Water, water management, commodification, more-than-human commoning, uncommons, Andes, Peru


Green infrastructure in informal settlements through a multiple-level perspective

Loan Diep
University College London, London, United Kingdom;

David Dodman
Human Settlements Group, International Institute for Environment and Development, London, UK;

Priti Parikh
University College London, London, United Kingdom;

ABSTRACT: The aim of this paper is to highlight limits in the current conceptualisation and implementation of urban Green Infrastructure (GI), particularly in informal settlements. We propose a Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) that helps analyse and identify opportunities to overcome such limits. The article starts by discussing the concept of GI and proposes its definition through the principles of multifunctionality, interlinkages and exchange. Recognising current gaps in implementation in the context of informal settlements, we argue for the better understanding of the range of socio-political conditions which enable or impede GI practices. To reflect on these gaps, the article uses MLP to explore persisting socio-ecological-infrastructural problems in water management, which could be perpetuated through current GI practices. MLP is used as a heuristic framework to analyse influencing factors that exist at multiple interconnected societal and bio-physical levels. The framework is applied to the city of São Paulo in Brazil where traditional water management has resulted in tensions between social and ecological systems between the regime (which encompasses institutional structures) and the niche (where innovations emerge, for example through grassroots movements). Examples of community initiatives are used that demonstrate a disconnection between top-down structures and everyday practices. We conclude that if GI presents the potential to support a transition towards water management that benefits both social and ecological systems, further characterisation of the concept is required.

KEYWORDS: Green infrastructure, informal settlements, sustainability transitions, multi-level perspective, São Paulo, Brazil


Irrigation and equality: An integrative gender-analytical approach to water governance with examples from Ethiopia and Argentina

Laura Imburgia
University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, United Kingdom;

ABSTRACT: This paper proposes the use of an integrative framework for better conceptualisation and operationalisation of research geared toward understanding irrigation systems, practices and processes, especially as relates to gender equality in water governance. More specifically, it discusses the importance of developing an integrative gender-analytical approach that enables both researchers and practitioners to analyse the complex interactions between technical and social dimensions of water governance, in order to determine how they contribute to, and thus effect, the overall success and sustainability of irrigated agriculture. Consequently, this paper provides a detailed account of the framework’s key components; including how it is informed by feminist, ecological and sociological theories. There is also an account of the framework’s practical application through a focus on specific outcomes in the dynamic field of water governance. To this end, the paper presents some results derived from an application of the integrative gender-analytical framework on data from a comparative study of small-scale irrigation systems in Ethiopia and Argentina. Ultimately, the goal of this paper is to promote a more nuanced and holistic approach to the study of water governance—one that takes both social and technical dimensions into similar account; particularly, if the aim is to promote broader social equality and the sustainability of irrigation systems.

KEYWORDS: Small-scale irrigation, gender-analytical framework, water governance, social relations, Ethiopia, Argentina


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Investments in innovative urban sanitation – Decision-making processes in Sweden

Maria Lennartsson
Research and Development Coordinator, City of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden;

Jennifer McConville
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden;

Elisabeth Kvarnström
RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Stockholm, Sweden;

Marinette Hagman
Northwestern Skånes Water and Wastewater Municipal Company, Helsingborg, Sweden;

Hamse Kjerstadius
Northwestern Skånes Water and Wastewater Municipal Company, Helsingborg, Sweden;

ABSTRACT: This paper studies decision-making processes in relation to the implementation of innovative source-separating wastewater systems in the development area of Helsingborg called H+, and the non-implementation of the same in Stockholm Royal Seaport. Two analytical perspectives were used to identify critical organisational functions, drivers for change and the anchoring of these decisions within policy: (i) a sustainability transitions framework, and (ii) a policy trickle-down study assessing policy-concept uptake by stakeholders. Critical functions supporting implementation of source-separating systems in H+ were: common vision, leadership, cross-sectoral cooperation, and an innovative approach both within the utility and in the city administration in Helsingborg. In Stockholm, with regard to source-separating wastewater systems, there was a lack of common vision and of cross-sectoral cooperation and leadership. This was also evident in the lack of uptake by stakeholders of the policies for source separation. In Helsingborg, the main drivers for source-separating wastewater systems are increased biogas generation and improved potential for nutrient recycling. In Stockholm, these drivers have not been enough to create change, but the potential for increased heat recovery from greywater at source may be the additional driver necessary for future implementation of source-separating wastewater systems. Comparison of the stalled source-separation policy in Stockholm with a successfully implemented policy in a related field found a key criteria to be the presence of inspired individuals in positions where they had the mandate as well as the ability to create a common vision for change.

KEYWORDS: Wastewater, resource recovery, source separation, sustainable urban development, Sweden



Hybrid constellations of water access in the digital age: The case of Jisomee Mita in Soweto-Kayole, Nairobi

Prince K. Guma
Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands;

Jochen Monstadt
Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands;

Sophie Schramm
Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: The digital age has reshaped the supply of infrastructure services in African cities. Over the last decade, Nairobi’s water sector has opened up to infrastructure investments enabled by the uptake and integration of digital technologies. These investments have focused on one particular group: the urban poor. This paper examines a new hybrid piped water supply project called Jisomee Mita (Read your Meter) in Soweto-Kayole, a low and average income neighbourhood in Nairobi. Jisomee Mita employs digital technologies to enable self meter reading, and mobile-phone-based billing, payment, and querying systems. In our study, we draw upon science and technology studies to show how as a globally promoted technological device, Jisomee Mita has become locally anchored and appropriated in variegated ways beyond its original design. Our study illustrates how hybrid and dynamic infrastructure constellations emerge through practices of remaking, upgrading, and expansion of centralised systems of water supply through the use of digital technologies by various actors. We argue that the ways in which actors continually modify Jisomee Mita beyond its original design reveal a tension between imaginations of active citizens as 'co-providers' of services inscribed to the project’s technologies, and the users’ own visions of citizenship. This vision, we contend, becomes apparent in the ways in which these such actors appropriate the project in unforeseen and partly subversive ways.

KEYWORDS: Water infrastructure, digital technologies, urban planning, African cities, Nairobi, Kenya


Beyond the river: Elite perceptions and regional cooperation in the Eastern Nile Basin

Rawia Tawfik
Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt; and German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungs Politik, Bonn, Germany;

ABSTRACT: This paper argues that benefit-sharing literature has assumed, rather than examined, the conditions under which cooperation over shared water resources from transboundary rivers can lead to regional cooperation in other economic sectors – cooperation 'beyond the river'. Using the case of the Eastern Nile Basin, the paper illustrates how economic cooperation between Ethiopia and Sudan has progressed in the last decade despite the lack of significant improvement in their water cooperation. Egypt and Sudan, on the other hand, have largely failed to translate their downstream hydropolitical alliance into stronger interdependencies in other economic sectors. In explaining this nonlinear relationship between water cooperation and cooperation 'beyond the river', the article explores the perceptions of political elites in Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the benefits and terms of cooperation, their assumptions as to who should set these terms and lead the cooperation process, and their ideas on the meaning of cooperation itself. It also underlines how incumbent regimes in each of the three Eastern Nile Basin countries view the possibility of collaborating with their counterparts in the Basin to reap the benefits of cooperation, and assess the impact of regional and international variables on this cooperation. In addition to secondary sources and official documents, the article is based on original and up-to-date interviews conducted with government officials and experts in Cairo, Addis Ababa, and Khartoum between September and November 2017.

KEYWORDS: Benefit sharing, hydropolitics, regional cooperation, Eastern Nile Basin, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia


Nebraska’s Natural Resource District system: Collaborative approaches to adaptive groundwater quality governance

Gregory N. Sixt
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab; and (at the time of research) Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy – Agriculture, Food and Environment Program, Boston, MA, USA;

Laurens Klerkx
Wageningen University, Knowledge Technology and Innovation Group, Wageningen, The Netherlands;

J. David Aiken
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Agricultural Economics, Lincoln, NE, USA;

Timothy S. Griffin
Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy – Agriculture, Food and Environment Program, Boston, MA, USA;

ABSTRACT: Nonpoint source pollution of groundwater by nitrates from agricultural activity is a persistent problem for which developing effective policy approaches has proven difficult. There is little empirical information on forms of governance or regime attributes that effectively and sustainably address agricultural nonpoint source pollution of groundwater. Nebraska’s Natural Resource District (NRD) system is a rare example of a groundwater governance regime that is putting programmes in place that are likely to generate sustainable groundwater quality outcomes. We focus on three groundwater nitrate management programmes in the state that collectively represent the broader NRD system. The research shows that four elements of Nebraska’s groundwater governance regime are fundamental to its success in addressing groundwater nitrates: 1) the local nature of governance, which builds trust among stakeholders; 2) the significant authority granted to the local districts by the state, allowing for the development of locally tailored solutions; 3) the collaborative governance approach, which allows potential scale imbalances to be overcome; and 4) the taxing authority granted to NRDs, which enables them to fund locally tailored management solutions. We find that these aspects of the NRD system have created conditions that enable adaptive, collaborative governance that positions the state well to address emerging groundwater quality challenges. We present aspects of the governance regime that are generalisable to other American states as efforts to address nitrate pollution in groundwater increase.

KEYWORDS: Groundwater quality, local governance, nested regimes, nonpoint source pollution, polycentric governance, Nebraska, USA


Re-conceptualising water conservation: Rainwater harvesting in the desert of the southwestern United States

Lucero Radonic
Department of Anthropology and Environmental Science & Policy Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA;

ABSTRACT: Water conservation technologies and programmes are increasingly important features of water governance in urban areas. By examining people’s situated understandings and relationships with water, this article expands research on the human dimensions of water conservation beyond its traditional focus on uptake of technologies, incentives, and single metrics for evaluation. In the American Southwest prolonged drought conditions are boosting the popularity of small-scale rainwater collection systems, which are becoming formalised primarily through water conservation programmes. In Tucson, Arizona, one such programme was a success in terms of user uptake and public support; however, paradoxically, rainwater harvesting did not always result in reduced potable water consumption. To understand why this was the case, I draw on qualitative and semi-quantitative data describing how people manage their rainwater harvesting systems and how they understand and value their diverse benefits. This study contributes to ongoing policy debates over water conservation and in particular emphasizes the need to broaden our working definition of conservation beyond volumetric reduction in potable water use. Based on the observed motivations, values and practices of water users and experts, I suggest water conservation could be understood to include factors such as the reduction of waste across all water sources and the repurposing of captured water for diverse beneficial uses in urban environments.

KEYWORDS: Water conservation, urban water governance, green infrastructure, rainwater harvesting, US Southwest, Arizona


Linking water services and human well-being through the fundamental human needs framework: The case of India

Francesco M. Gimelli
School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Australia;

Briony C. Rogers
School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Australia;

Joannette J. Bos
Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, Australia;

ABSTRACT: Although the focus of water development in urban informal settlements has traditionally been on improving public health, development scholarship increasingly emphasises the relationship between water services and multiple dimensions of human well-being. Nevertheless, how well-being is defined in the literature remains unclear, leaving questions about what dimensions of it are to be fostered through water service development. In this paper, we argue that prominent interpretations of well-being in the water sector do not adequately represent the range of impacts of water services on the ability of informal settlers to meet their needs beyond survival. To address this gap, we make the case for the adoption of Max-Neef’s (1992) Fundamental Human Needs (FHN) framework in the water sector, which we show to present a clear, holistic and dynamic understanding of well-being. Through a case study of water service arrangements across six informal settlements in the Indian cities of Faridabad, Delhi and Mumbai, we illustrate how using the FHN framework uncovers potential pathways by which water service development can satisfy a broad range of fundamental human needs. Applying the FHN framework to these settings leads us to argue that: 1) water services should be linked to people’s aspirations as well as to their basic physical needs; 2) cultivating well-being has both intrinsic and instrumental benefits that enable individuals to become more resilient; 3) water services should be better linked with other development sectors; and 4) non-traditional water service arrangements should be re-evaluated according to their capacity to contribute to people’s well-being.

KEYWORDS: Urban informal settlements, water services, well-being, fundamental human needs, India


India’s development cooperation in Bhutan’s hydropower sector: Concerns and public perceptions

Udisha Saklani
Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom;

Cecilia Tortajada
Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore;

ABSTRACT: The global landscape of international development is undergoing a rapid transition, with emerging actors playing a significant role in meeting the developmental needs of developing-country partners. Over the past six decades, India has emerged as a major donor and development partner, directing a significant share of its assistance and investments to countries in South Asia. This paper provides an overview of Indiaʼs development cooperation with Bhutan, the largest and one of the oldest beneficiaries of Indian assistance, with special attention to the hydropower sector. In recent years, the scale of Indiaʼs disbursement and development cooperation activities in Bhutan has come under scrutiny. In this paper, we document the official views, and those of the international organisations and the media in India and Bhutan, on the possible repercussions of these activities in the near, medium and long term and how the different concerns are being addressed. We argue that in future India will have to work harder to alleviate the key concerns of stakeholders in Bhutan regarding Indiaʼs growing investments there.

KEYWORDS: Hydropower, energy development, public perception, development assistance, India, Bhutan


Liquid violence: The politics of water responsibilisation and dispossession in South Africa

Michela Marcatelli
Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa;

Bram Büscher
Wageningen University, The Netherlands; Visiting Professor Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies University of Johannesburg; Research Associate Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology Stellenbosch University;

ABSTRACT: This article introduces the notion of liquid violence to explain structural and racialised water inequality in contemporary South Africa. Investigating the Waterberg region in Limpopo Province from a water perspective reveals a growing surplus population composed of (ex-)farm workers and their families. Following their relocation – often coerced – from the farms to the town of Vaalwater, these people have been forced to rely on a precarious water supply, while white landowners maintain control over abundant water resources. And yet, as we show, this form of structural violence is perceived as ordinary, even natural. Our biopolitical concept of liquid violence emphasises how this works out and is legitimised in empirical practice. The argument starts from the neoliberal idea that water access depends upon the individual responsibilisation of citizens. For the black working poor, this means accepting to pay for water services or to provide labour on farms. For white landowners, it implies tightening their exclusive control over water and resisting any improvement to the urban supply involving the redistribution of resources. Supported and enabled by the state, liquid violence operates by reworking the boundaries between the public and private spheres. On the one hand, it blurs them by transforming the provision of public water services into a market exchange. On the other hand, and paradoxically, it hardens those same boundaries by legitimising and strengthening the power of those who have property rights in water.

KEYWORDS: Individual responsibilisation, property rights, violence, water, South Africa