Watson, S. 2019. City water matters: Cultures, practices and entanglements of urban water. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-981-13-7892-8, 216 p., £59.99, ebook £47.99.
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Once nestled into the confines of specific water-related disciplines such as hydrology and hydraulic engineering, water as a social resource has comfortably entered the social sciences, and this is evidenced by a large and growing body of literature that explores the importance of water as a cultural, economic and political entity. As a result of this intellectual effort, we are now well aware of the many tangible and intangible webs of relationships that direct and divert water flows at both the local and the global scale. This book adds to this interdisciplinary research agenda, and it does so by looking at "water as a cultural object, and as a source of complex meanings and practices in everyday life, embedded in the socioeconomics of local water provision" (10-11).
As such, the book is a well-documented contribution to urban studies literature exploring cultural aspects of water, and Watson does draw on the insightful work conducted by Zoë Sofoulis during the last couple of decades to build some of her arguments. While the book offers an eclectic – or as Watson puts it, serendipitous – overview of "different aspects of water as it settles or is unsettled in cities" (11), the fact that the author is not focusing on a specific case study but rather on numerus cities (predominantly London, but also Istanbul, Rome, Paris and more) means that at times the reader is left wanting to know a bit more about the matters discussed. It is also surprising that the abundant critical scholarship on urban water flows (among others Maria Kaila, Matthew Gandy and Erik Swyngedouw) and, more in general, on posthuman water assemblages, has been largely overlooked – except for some scattered mentions – as the book could have fruitfully engaged with, and contributed to, such debates. This notwithstanding, the book is an engaging and overall enjoyable read that will appeal to scholars from a wide range of disciplines.