Folder Issue 2





Access to and ownership of water in Anglophone Africa and a case study in South Africa

Hilmer J. Bosch
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam;

Joyeeta Gupta
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam;

ABSTRACT: Access to water can be through public, private or community 'ownership', that is, the riparian rights that are associated with landownership, payments, contracts, markets and permits; these rights are often institutionalised in (customary) legal systems. Most countries are now revisiting such ownership rules in the light of growing water challenges, but there is little systematic understanding in the scholarly literature of what these rules are and how they are changing. This paper thus addresses the question of what is the state of de jure and de facto ownership of water in Anglophone Africa? A review of the scholarly literature on water ownership is accompanied by an analysis of the laws of 27 Anglophone African countries and field work in South Africa. The paper concludes that even though in all the studied countries the state has put water in the public domain, there remain situations where water is de facto owned by different actors; these cases of private ownership stem from the difficulties of changing Existing Legal Use permits, the implicit recognition of long-term entitlements that are based on permits, and the likely requirement of compensation in cases where entitlements are expropriated. The implication is that, in fact, water can be owned and that the law does not preclude the development of property-like rights over water.

KEYWORDS: Water rights, property rights, water ownership, water governance, water law, South Africa




Social networks and perceptions of power in the Mekong

Leong Ching
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore;

ABSTRACT: Among researchers of the Mekong, there has been a call to incorporate local perceptions into governance regimes, both on social justice grounds as well as to improve policymaking; few studies, however, show how this can be done. This paper suggests a framework which combines quantitative mapping of local narratives onto social networks in order to enable us to understand how networks impact the public narratives which travel along them. We focus on a resettlement community at the Lower Sesan 2 Dam; we use social network analysis (SNA) to investigate relationship flows and Q-methodology to study the impact of the relevant narratives. Intriguingly, SNA shows that villagers perceive themselves to be highly influential in decision-making, whereas local leaders consider villagers to have little or no influence. While SNA classifies networks or groups into those which support dam construction and those which resist it, Q-methodology uncovers eight discourse factors which are far more complex; these include access to economic gains from hydropower development, coping costs from transitions, and non-economic costs such as cultural loss. This complex – and in some ways contradictory – narrative may explain the paradoxical perceptions of power observed between villages and local leaders. Overall, this framework allows policymakers to better understand complex public narratives as well as how and why narratives impact policy implementation.

KEYWORDS: Local perceptions, narratives, social network analysis, water governance, Mekong




Agricultural water governance in the desert: Shifting risks in central Arizona

Abigail M. York
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA;

Hallie Eakin
School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA;

Julia C. Bausch
Morrison Institute, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA;

Skaidra Smith-Heisters
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA;

John M. Anderies
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA;

Rimjhim Aggarwal
School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA;

Bryan Leonard
School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA;

Katherine Wright
School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA;

ABSTRACT: In Arizona, the policy debates over the 2019 Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan exposed long-running tensions surrounding how we use and value scarce water resources in a desert. These negotiations also highlighted generations-old disputes between indigenous communities’ water rights and Anglo settlers. This paper explores how irrigators respond to, and participate in, the crafting of institutional arrangements while at the same time experiencing increased exposure to climatic and hydrological risk. Our analysis incorporates qualitative interview data, a literature review, archival information from policy reports, and secondary data on water use and agricultural production. Building on the fieldwork with farmers and water experts that we completed before the drought contingency planning efforts began, we describe the status quo and then explore potential future contexts based on shifting incentives and on the constraints that arise during periods of Colorado River water shortages. Through an understanding of the socio-hydrological system, we examine the region’s agricultural water use, water governance, indigenous water rights and co-governance, and the potential future of agriculture in the region. Our study illustrates how the historic and current institutions have been maintaining agricultural vibrancy but also creating new risks associated with increased dependence on the Colorado River.

KEYWORDS: Irrigated agriculture, drought, governance, climate change, Colorado River, Arizona


Urban ponds, environmental imaginaries and (un)commoning: An urban political ecology of the pondscape in a small city in Gujarat, India

Anna Zimmer
Independent researcher, New Delhi, India;

René Véron
Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland;

Natasha L. Cornea
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom;

ABSTRACT: Urban ponds in India have for a long time been used for multiple purposes and have been accessible to a wide range of social groups; they thus often represent an urban commons. However, recent transformations of urban ponds into infrastructure that serves more limited uses have been accompanied by enclosure and social exclusion. Using an urban political ecology approach that is enriched with the concepts of environmental imaginaries and (un)commoning, this paper examines the ideational foundations and societal mechanisms underpinning the transformation of the pondscape of Navsari, a small city in the state of Gujarat. Based on interviews and field observations, the study found that the small-town elite’s imaginary of the 'modern city' underpinned the shift to the ponds becoming part of Navsari’s drinking water infrastructure; this led to the enclosure of the ponds and thus the ideational and physical separation of residents from these waterbodies and the exclusion of traditional user groups. This socio-ecological transformation of the pondscape, however, was not characterised by simple, linear processes of uncommoning driven by local elites: the dismantling of the urban commons (in the form of waste dumping by multiple actors) largely preceded the creation of infrastructure; enclosures and exclusions remained imperfect and spatially variable; and in some places informal resource-use rules continued or were recreated by local communities. This research points to how important it is for urban political ecology to consider the imaginaries and practices of multiple actors – including those beyond the metropolitan areas – in the construction of a nuanced narrative of dispossession in the neoliberal city.

KEYWORDS: Urban political ecology, urban commons, environmental imaginaries, ponds, Gujarat, India




Commercialisation as organised hypocrisy: The divergence of talk and action in water services in small towns in Uganda

Mireia Tutusaus
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands;

Klaas Schwartz
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands and Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam;

ABSTRACT: The topic of commercialisation in the water services sector has been subject to heated debate over the past years. By drawing on an analysis of the service of small towns by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation of Uganda, we argue that multiple interpretations of the commercialisation of services can coexist within a single water utility. Whereas the water utility claims to adhere to a model of commercial water provisioning, the implemented model shows significant deviations from the ideal. In this article, we elaborate on the organisational strategies that help sustain a dissonance between what is prescribed in the discourse and what happens on the ground and we mobilise the concept of organised hypocrisy to describe these strategies. We highlight that the water utility needs to show adherence to a commercial public utility model in order to access resources from donors and the national government, while it must at the same time provide actual water services to these towns. The collective celebration of the success of the discursive model of commercialisation, despite the deviations to the model during implementation, promotes the persistence of this model in the international policy domain.

KEYWORDS: Commercialisation, water supply services, organised hypocrisy, Uganda




Depoliticising poor water quality: Ambiguous agreement in a wastewater reuse project in Morocco

Amal Ennabih
Sciences-Po Lyon, UMR Triangle, Lyon, France;

Pierre-Louis Mayaux
CIRAD, UMR G-EAU, Univ Montpellier, Montpellier, France;

ABSTRACT: How are depoliticising discourses on water issues produced and rendered effective? Research on discursive depoliticisation has focused on the ability of different types of policy networks to generate powerful and reasonably coherent depoliticised narratives. In the paper, by tracing the depoliticisation of poor water quality in a wastewater reuse project in Marrakesh, Morocco, we suggest that depoliticised discourses can also be produced in a much more dispersed, less coordinated way. In the case analysed here, depoliticisation occurred through an 'ambiguous agreement' around a highly polysemic idea, that of innovation. All the key actors understood that the project was innovative but that water quality was not a significant part of the innovation. This encouraged each actor to frame poor water quality as a strictly private matter that the golf courses needed to tackle on their own; however, each actor also had their own, idiosyncratic interpretation of exactly what this innovation was about and why poor water quality was in the end not that important. Showing how depoliticisation can be the product of mechanisms with varying degrees of coordination helps account for the ubiquity of the phenomenon.

KEYWORDS: Depoliticisation, discourse, wastewater reuse, polysemy, ambiguous agreement, Morocco




Nationalism, legitimacy and hegemony in transboundary water interactions

Jeremy Allouche
Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK;

Abstract: This article examines how discourses of water nationalism are used to justify and legitimise a state’s water policy both domestically and internationally and how that discourse constitutes a battleground of ideas and power in transboundary water interactions. Most literature on hydropolitics takes the social construct of the nation state as a given but the construct reveals a certain degree of fragility. For this reason, legitimacy, both domestic and global, is a crucial factor in understanding these transboundary water disputes. Water-related slogans and landscape symbols can be used to reinforce the legitimising effects of these discourses and are employed as an ideology for consolidating hegemony at the transboundary level. These discourses, however, are also contested both domestically and globally. This paper uses three specific case studies around dam building projects – the Merowe Dam in Sudan, the Rogun Dam in Tajikistan and the Southeastern Anatolia Project in Turkey – to identify how these discourses create different types of transboundary water interactions.

Keywords: Nation state construct, legitimacy, fragility, hegemony, transboundary water relations, hydropolitics




Does collaborative governance increase public confidence in water management? Survey evidence from Aotearoa New Zealand

Marc Tadaki
Cawthron Institute, Nelson, New Zealand;

Jim Sinner
Cawthron Institute, Nelson, New Zealand;

Philip Stahlmann-Brown
Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Wellington, New Zealand;

Suzie Greenhalgh
Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Auckland, New Zealand;

ABSTRACT: Collaborative decision-making is widely understood as a democratic corrective to top-down forms of environmental management; it is a way in which citizens can contribute local knowledge to the policy process and have a more direct role in shaping policies and rules that affect them and their environments. However, while the democratic virtues of collaborative governance are often asserted, they are rarely evidenced; this leaves claims of democratic empowerment open to question. This study used a longitudinal survey of three New Zealand regions (n = 1350) to identify whether major multi-year investments in collaborative decision-making (2012-2018) are leading to increased public confidence in the effectiveness, responsiveness and fairness of water management institutions. Residents in collaborative catchments were found to have scores that were statistically indistinguishable from residents of non-collaborative catchments on management effectiveness, perceived agreement about water management, and fairness. Collaborative catchment residents did assign higher scores for water management responsiveness than did other residents, but the size of this difference was small compared to the effects of gender, ethnicity, region and level of individuals’ prior engagement in water management. Despite major investments in collaborative community decision-making exercises, community confidence in the legitimacy, fairness and effectiveness of environmental management has not improved over the four years documented in our surveys. Researchers and practitioners should focus on developing ways to assess – and realise – the democratic benefits of collaborative decision-making for water.

KEYWORDS: Collaborative governance, legitimacy, participation, evaluation, democracy, New Zealand




Challenges of accessing water for agricultural use in the Breede-Gouritz Catchment management agency, South Africa

Awelani Sadiki
Faculty of Applied Sciences, Department of Environmental and Occupational Studies, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa;

Bongani Ncube
Centre for Water and Sanitation Research, Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying, Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa;

ABSTRACT: Agricultural water is not equitably shared in South Africa. A substantial proportion of water is in the hands of large commercial farmers and the water access of smallholder farmers is limited. Policies and strategies developed since 1994 to ensure equal access to productive water have had little impact. This paper presents an analysis of the challenges of accessing water through the water user licence process in the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA) of South Africa. A review of the national Water Allocation Reform (WAR) programme and the related BGCMA strategies was carried out. Interviews were conducted with smallholder farmers and with key officials responsible for water allocation processes in the BGCMA and other water-related institutions; the Framework of Water Governance by Franks and Cleaver (2007) was used to analyse the processes. Results revealed that existing lawful water use continues to privilege previously advantaged commercial farmers and that smallholder farmers’ access to productive water is hampered by lack of human and financial capacity within the institutions that support them, and by limited coordination among these institutions. A water allocation unit at the BGCMA that specifically deals with water licencing is necessary to speed up the process and to enable local people to inclusively participate in water resource management.

KEYWORDS: Water Allocation Reform, water user licence, smallholder farmers, access, South Africa, water governance


Drinking water service delivery choices in Poland: Empirical analysis of impact factors

Katarzyna Szmigiel-Rawska
Department of Local Development and Policy, Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland;

Julita Łukomska
Department of Local Development and Policy, Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland;

ABSTRACT: This paper focuses on poli-organisational governance structures in which local governments provide services in the drinking water sector. A set of hypotheses was developed relating to the choice between in-house, corporatized, or externalised service delivery. The empirical evidence was based on long term socio-economic factors at local government levels in Poland. Local Polish government constitutes a highly decentralised system which features a wide range of service delivery governance arrangements. This is the first systematic attempt to investigate the different types of water service delivery in this environment. The model was tested using quantitative tools created on statistical variables, and by a survey of 1089 municipal representatives. The research findings provide insight into a set of context variables which describe the conditions under which local officials keep the service in-house, and the conditions that incline local authorities to engage public or private agents. The survey questionnaire allowed us to identify 15 different arrangements for drinking water supply delivery. The research findings provide evidence that the likelihood of in-house provision of water services is determined by the size of the local government, the abundance of the environment, the level of modernisation, and the locality’s financial self-management.

KEYWORDS: Service delivery modes, local government, water services, drinking water provision, Poland


Institutional analysis of small dam removals: A comparison of non-federal dam removals in Washington and Oregon

Matthias P. Fostvedt
Water Resources Graduate Program, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA;

Desiree D. Tullos
Biological and Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA;

Bryan Tilt
School of Language, Culture, and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA;

ABSTRACT: The vast majority of dams in the US, and thus the majority of those removed, are small structures that are governed primarily by state and local institutions. Important differences between large and small dams suggest that the existing work on the governance of large dam removals should not be expected to explain decisions about small dam removals. It is, for example, unclear which policies and organisations drive dam removals when there is no direct federal nexus. It is also unclear how the relevant policies and organisations shape the local decision-making process and how the design of the decision-making process influences stakeholder opinions on the decision to remove the dam. The objective of this study is thus to characterise and evaluate the governance that has driven recent decisions to remove small dams. A modified version of Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development framework was applied to two dam removal case studies, that of the Beeson-Robison Dam in Oregon and the Nelson Dam in Washington state. In each case, an online survey was distributed to stakeholders involved in the dam removals in order to characterise the design and costs of the governance process and to investigate how those variables were associated with stakeholder opinions on the decision to remove the dam. Results found little difference in governance processes between the two case studies, suggesting that the organisation that led the removal – a local government and an NGO, respectively – was not an important determinant in the governance process. Instead, the case studies suggest that a governance mechanism characterised by passive threat, active support led to the decision to remove both dams. It is hypothesised that a similar governance mechanism is at play in other environmental management and restoration activities. Other key findings include the high levels of satisfaction and optimism among stakeholders of both projects, likely a result of the time and energy invested in a collaborative decision-making process at both sites. Further work should be conducted to more fully characterise the governance mechanisms behind small dam removals, which may help reduce the conflicts and costs of future projects.

KEYWORDS: dam removal, Institutional Analysis and Development framework, governance, US Pacific Northwest