Just as in other parts of Spain, the Guadalhorce Valley, Málaga, has a long history of policies based on ‘hydraulic utopianism’ (regenerationist and Franco-ist), bent on ‘reorganizing’ political, geographic, and human nature. Residents of the neighboring sub-basin, the Río Grande valley, have seen how these policies, designed to transfer rural water to modern urban centers, have turned the Guadalhorce hydrosocial territory into a ‘hydraulic dystopia’. In this article, we examine how Río Grande valley residents mobilized to maintain control over the development and use of their resources, livelihoods, and knowledge systems, when modernist-urbanist policies planned to take their water from a major dam on the Río Grande. Interviewing actors at different scales we examined how this anti-dam movement organized massively in a creative, multi-actor, and multi-scale network. Our results also show that this unified, successful fight against the ‘common enemy’, the mega-hydraulic construction, has become more complex, as threats crop up not only from the ‘city over there’ but also from ‘internal’ hydro-territorial transformations. These sprout from policies to modernize traditional irrigation systems, supposedly to ‘save water’, but critical voices assume that it is all about passing on the ‘surplus’ to Málaga city, or using that water to expand agribusiness. We conclude that the challenge lies in critically integrating multiple forms of knowledge, stakeholders, and scales to both defend collective water management and creatively construct anti-hegemonic alternatives.
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