Folder Issue1

February 2012




Fostering institutional creativity at multiple levels: Towards facilitated institutional bricolage

Douglas J. Merrey
Independent Consultant, 905 Fearrington Post, Pittsboro, NC 27312, USA;
Simon Cook
Centre for Water Resources, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia;

ABSTRACT: Problems occur when institutional arrangements for collective management of food and water systems fail to meet demands. Many of the problems characterising river basins and other collectively managed water resource systems can be ascribed largely to the failure of institutions to enable problems beyond the individual to be managed collectively. The nature of these demands, and the institutional responses to them, vary widely and are not amenable to simple definitions and prescriptions. We begin with a brief review of conventional approaches to analysing institutions and organisations, focused largely, but not exclusively, on river basins. We observe that attempts to reduce the institutional landscape of river basins to over-simplistic formulas introduces more problems than solutions, because the reality is that institutions evolve through complex creative processes that adopt and adapt diverse ingredients - rather like making a stew. Despite such intricacies, institutions are clearly non-random, so we continue a search for a means of describing them. We adopt the concept of bricolage, as proposed by Cleaver and others, and use it to show the value of promoting and facilitating an organic creative approach to building and strengthening river basin and other water management institutions.



Parcelling out the watershed: The recurring consequences of organising Columbia river management within a basin-based territory

Eve Vogel
Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, US;

ABSTRACT: This article examines a 75-year history of North America'€™s Columbia river to answer the question: what difference does a river basin territory actually make? Advocates reason that river basins and watersheds are natural and holistic water management spaces, and can avoid the fragmentations and conflicts endemic to water management within traditional political territories. However, on the Columbia, this reasoning has not played out in practice. Instead, basin management has been shaped by challenges from and negotiations with more traditional jurisdictional spaces and political districts. The recurring result has been 'parcelling out the watershed': coordinating river management to produce a few spreadable benefits, and distributing these benefits, as well as other responsibilities and policy-making influence, to jurisdictional parts and political districts. To provide generous spreadable benefits, river management has unevenly emphasised hydropower, resulting in considerable environmental losses. However, benefits have been widely spread and shared - and over time challengers have forced management to diversify. Thus a river basin territory over time produced patterns of both positive and negative environmental, social, economic, and democratic outcomes. To improve the outcomes of watershed-based water management, we need more interactive and longer-term models attentive to dynamic politics and geographies.



Strategies of the poorest in local water conflict and cooperation -€“ Evidence from Vietnam, Bolivia and Zambia

Mikkel Funder
Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark;
Rocio Bustamante
Centro Agua, Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Cochabamba, Bolivia;
Vladimir Cossio
Centro Agua, Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Cochabamba, Bolivia;
Pham Thi Mai Huong
Hanoi University of Agriculture, Hanoi, Vietnam;
Barbara van Koppen
International Water Management Institute, Pretoria, South Africa;
Carol Mweemba
Integrated Water Resources Management Center, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia;
Imasiku Nyambe
Integrated Water Resources Management Center, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia;
Le ThiThan Phuong
Hanoi University of Agriculture, Hanoi, Vietnam;
Thomas Skielboe
Nordic Agency for Development & Ecology, Copenhagen, Denmark;

ABSTRACT: Media stories often speak of a future dominated by large-scale water wars. Rather less attention has been paid to the way water conflicts already play out at local levels and form part of people'€™s everyday lives. Based on case study studies from Vietnam, Bolivia and Zambia, this paper examines the strategies of poor households in local water conflicts. It is shown how such households may not only engage actively in collaborative water management but may also apply risk aversion strategies when faced with powerful adversaries in conflict situations. It is further shown how dependency relations between poor and wealthy households can reduce the scope of action for the poor in water conflicts. As a result, poor households can be forced to abstain from defending their water resources in order to maintain socio-economic and political ties with the very same households that oppose them in water conflicts. The paper concludes by briefly discussing how the poorest can be supported in local water conflicts. This includes ensuring that alternative spaces for expressing grievances exist and are accessible; facilitating that water sharing agreements and rights are clearly stipulated and monitored; and working beyond water governance to reduce the socio-economic dependency-relations of poor households.



Project politics, priorities and participation in rural water schemes

Barbara van Koppen
International Water Management Institute, Pretoria, South Africa;
Vladimir Cossio Rojas
Centro AGUA, Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Cochabamba, Bolivia;
Thomas Skielboe
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen, Denmark;

ABSTRACT: Governments, NGOs and financers invest considerable resources in rural domestic water supplies and irrigation development. However, elite capture and underuse, if not complete abandonment, are frequent. While the blame is often put on 'corrupt, lazy and indisciplined' communities, this article explores the question of how the public water sector itself contributes to this state of affairs. Four case studies, which are part of the research project Cooperation and Conflict in Local Water Governance, are examined: two domestic water supply projects (Mali, Vietnam); one participatory multiple use project (Zambia); and one large-scale irrigation project (Bolivia). It was found that accountability of water projects was upward and tended to lie in construction targets for single uses with already allocated funding. This rendered project implementers dependent upon the village elite for timely spending. Yet, the elite appeared hardly motivated to maintain communal schemes, unless they themselves benefited. The dependency of projects on the elite can be reduced by ensuring participatory and inclusive planning that meets the project'€™s conditions before budget allocation. Although such approaches are common outside the water sector, a barrier in the water sector is that central public funds are negotiated by each sector by profiling unique expertise and single livelihood goals, which trickle down as single use silos. The article concludes with reflections on plausible benefits of participatory multiple use services for equity and sustainability.



Introduction to the Themed Section: Water governance and the politics of scale

Emma S. Norman
Native Environmental Science Program, Northwest Indian College, Bellingham, WA, USA;
Karen Bakker
Department of Geography and Program on Water Governance, Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada;
Christina Cook
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada;

ABSTRACT: This introductory article of the themed section introduces a series of papers that engage with water governance and the politics of scale. The paper situates the ongoing 'politics of scale' debates, and links them to discussions germane to water governance. We call for closer attention to the inter-relationships between power and social networks in studies of water governance, with particular reference to both institutional dynamics and scalar constructions. Framed in this way, we suggest that the engagement at the intersection of politics of scale and water governance moves the concept of scale beyond the 'fixity' of territory. The paper reflects on the ways in which the recognition of scale as socially constructed and contingent on political struggle might inform analyses of water governance and advance our understanding of hydrosocial networks.



The politics of scaling water governance and adjudication in New Mexico

Eric P. Perramond
Environmental Science and Southwest Studies Programs, The Colorado College;

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the scalar politics of the water rights adjudication process in New Mexico (US). Over the past 150 years, water governance in New Mexico has gradually shifted away from communal management towards more individualised 'water rights'. This paper addresses the consequences of this shift for water users while also addressing the literature on the politics of scale and scalar politics. Actors engaged in water governance mobilise scale, and scalar politics operate in different settings, depending on the priorities of the stakeholders. Using interviews, archival research, and institutional ethnography, I illustrate how scale of various kinds is fundamental to the process of water rights adjudication and water governance in the state of New Mexico. Although the academic sense of the politics of scale remains contested, these debates seem largely abstract to most water users, even if they materially and rhetorically engage in multiple levels of scalar politics. The framing of scale arguments ranges from the biopolitics of individual water rights holders, to the new regionalisation of ditches due to adjudication, to considerations at the larger watershed level.



Toward post-sovereign environmental governance? Politics, scale, and EU Water Framework Directive

Corey Johnson
Department of Geography, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA;

ABSTRACT: The EU Water Framework Directive (EUWFD) of 2000 requires that all EU member states "protect, enhance and restore" rivers to attain good surface water quality by 2015. To achieve this mandate, member states divide themselves into watershed basins (River Basin Districts) for the purposes of monitoring and remediation, even if those districts cross international borders. This paper examines three key elements of the rescaling of governance along watershed lines. First, I draw on a cross section of literatures on territoriality of the state and the changing regulation of nature to argue that analyses of the EU tend to privilege the nation-state as an ontological starting point. Second, the EUWFD as a rescaling of environmental gvernance is explored. The third element of the paper considers the relationship between the de- and re-territorialisation of environmental governance on the one hand, and the changing character of sovereignty in the EU on the other. On this basis, the paper argues that the EUWFD represents a hybrid form of territoriality that is changing the political geography of the European Union and that the redrawing of political-administrative scales along physical geographical lines provides evidence of the emergence of a new, non-nested scalar politics of governance in Europe.



State development and the rescaling of agricultural hydrosocial governance in semi-arid Northwest China

Afton Clarke-Sather
Department of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA;

ABSTRACT: Over the past 20 years, agriculture in the semi-arid Zuli river valley in Northwest China has been transformed from subsistence to commercial production. Instead of spring wheat and millet, peasants now grow maize, potatoes, and cabbage for national markets. This transformation has been facilitated by a series of interventions that have rescaled agricultural hydrosocial relations in the valley. Many of these interventions, such as alternative cash crops, do not fall under what is traditionally considered water governance, but have altered peasants'€™ relationship with agricultural water nonetheless. This article (1) calls for a broadening of our understanding of scale in hydrosocial relations that gives more attention to the socioeconomic interactions that facilitate human relationships with water in the absence of the biophysical resource of water; (2) illustrates that state-backed rescaling of hydrosocial relations comprises contingent processes, which may or may not be planned; and (3) examines how water governance can mean examining what people do without water, as well as what people do with water. This article illustrates that a diverse set of state actors govern farmers'€™ relationships with agricultural water in often conflicting ways by rescaling both the biophysical resource of water, and socioeconomic institutions that affect agricultural water use.



Restructuring and rescaling water governance in mining contexts: The co-production of waterscapes in Peru

Jessica Budds
Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, UK;
Leonith Hinojosa
Geography Department, The Open University, UK;

ABSTRACT: The governance of water resources is prominent in both water policy agendas and academic scholarship. Political ecologists have made important advances in reconceptualising the relationship between water and society. Yet while they have stressed both the scalar dimensions and the politicised nature of water governance, analyses of its scalar politics are relatively nascent. In this paper, we consider how the increased demand for water resources by the growing mining industry in Peru reconfigures and rescales water governance. In Peru, the mining industry'€™s thirst for water draws in and reshapes social relations, technologies, institutions, and discourses that operate over varying spatial and temporal scales. We develop the concept of waterscape to examine these multiple ways in which water is co-produced through mining, often beyond the watershed scale. We argue that an examination of waterscapes avoids the limitations of thinking about water in purely material terms, structuring analysis of water issues according to traditional spatial scales and institutional hierarchies, and taking these scales and structures for granted.



Cultural politics and transboundary resource governance in the Salish sea

Emma S. Norman
Native Environmental Science Program, Northwest Indian College, Bellingham, WA, USA;

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the cultural politics of water governance through the analysis of a new governing body created by indigenous leaders in the Pacific Northwest of North America: The Coast Salish Aboriginal Council. This paper investigates how the administrative structures and physical boundaries of water governance are both socially constructed and politically mobilised. The key moments explored in this article are closely linked to the power dynamics constituted through postcolonial constructions of space. Inclusion of cultural politics of scale will, arguably, provide a more nuanced approach to the study of transboundary environmental governance. This has important implications for the study of natural resource management for indigenous communities, whose traditional homelands are often bifurcated by contemporary border constructions.



Transboundary water management. Principles and practice (Earle et al.; 2010).
Jeroen Warner