Special Issue "Doing Water Provision, Distribution and Conservation: A Practice-Based Approach to Water Governance"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Resources Management and Governance".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (24 June 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Margreet Zwarteveen
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
IHE-Delft and the University of Amsterdam
Tel. +31 6 53475327
Interests: water governance; irrigation; water management; political ecology; feminist political ecology; water justice; infrastructure
Dr. Tatiana Acevedo-Guerrero
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
IHE-Delft and the University of Amsterdam
Tel. +31152151859
Interests: water governance; political ecology; sanitation; water and equity
Assoc. Prof. Klaas Schwartz
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
IHE-Delft and the University of Amsterdam
Tel. +31152152357
Interests: water services provision; water governance; water sector reform; pro-poor water services
Assoc. Prof. Kathryn Furlong
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Montréal
Tel. 514-343-6111 #28499
Interests: water governance; water and urbanisation; political ecology; infrastructure

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Water governance is a practical question, as much as it is a political one. This Special Issue proposes to insert the analysis of water governance in an understanding of the everyday actions of those engaged in, and responsible for, governance processes. Inspired by a broader “re-turn to practice” (Bueger, 2014; Reijo et al., 2009) in social and political sciences, we invite papers that help advance empirically-based understandings of how water governance actually happens (in contrast to ideal-typical models or prescriptions of how governance should occur).

We are looking for reflections on water governance processes based on descriptions of the “actions” or “doings” of those actors involved in making water decisions, operating water systems or regulating water, with a special interest in, and focus on, those with formal responsibilities of dealing with water: Water operators, government officials, design engineers, representatives of funding organizations, but also educators. How do they deal with, decide on, share, collaborate, fight and talk about or more generally make sense of water in their daily routines, designs and interventions?

By anchoring the analysis of water governance in a precise documentation of these everyday practices—practices of providing water services, of designing, operating and maintaining water systems, of protecting water sources and flows, of sharing waters or water services, etc.—we aspire to create room for acknowledging the importance of bricolage or tinkering in making water systems work, or solving water problems (Behagel et al. 2017;  Furlong et al., 2017). In particular, we invite contributions that shed light on how different water actors reconcile or navigate conflicting demands or mandates; for instance, those of cost recovery and universal access in drinking water (Schwartz et al., 2017), or those of conservation and productivity in irrigation.

Our aim with this Special Issue is to use the idea of practice to reinvigiorate the capacity of the concept of water governance to analyze actual governance processes. Linked to a broader analysis of how society functions and universality (truth) is produced, such an analysis is important to better engage with (think about and act on) the politics of water governance (Zwarteveen et al., 2017).

References:

Behagel Jelle Hendrik, Bas Arts and Esther Turnhout (2017): Beyond argumentation: a practice-based approach to environmental policy, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, DOI: 10.1080/1523908X.2017.1295841

Bueger Christian (2014): Pathways to practice: praxiography and international politics,  European Political Science Review, 6: 383-406. DOI: 10.1017/S1755773913000167

Furlong Kathryn, Marie-Noëlle Carré and Tatiana-Acevedo-Guerrero (2017): Urban service provision: Insights from pragmatism and ethics, Environment and Planning A, 49(12): 2800–2812. DOI: 10.1177/0308518X17734547

Miettinen Reijo, Dalvir Samra-Fredericks and Dvora Yanow (2009): Re-Turn to practice: An introductory essay, Organization Studies, 30(12): 1309–1327. DOI: 10.1177/0170840609349860

Schwartz, Klaas, Mireia Tutusaus, and Elisa Savelli (2017): Water for the urban poor: Balancing financial and social objectives through service differentiation for low-income areas in the Kenyan water services sector, Utilities Policy, 48: 22-31. DOI: 10.1016/j.jup.2017.08.001.

Zwarteveen Margreet, Jeltsje Kemerink-Seyoum, Michelle Kooy, et al. (2017): Engaging with the politics of water governance. WIREs Water, e01245. DOI: 10.1002/wat2.1245

Prof. Margreet Zwarteveen
Prof. Dr. Klaas Schwartz
Dr. Tatiana Acevedo-Guerrero
Prof. Dr. Kathryn Furlong
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • water governance
  • practice
  • practitioner
  • pragmatism
  • bricolage
  • tinkering

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Water Rights and Everyday Ch’ixi Practices in the Barrio El Faro in Medellín, Colombia
Water 2019, 11(10), 2062; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11102062 - 02 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Situated at the margins of the urban–rural perimeter of the city of Medellín in Colombia, El Faro is a neighborhood in constant construction where life flourishes despite limited access to a formal water supply. By means of everyday practices, El Faro’s residents have [...] Read more.
Situated at the margins of the urban–rural perimeter of the city of Medellín in Colombia, El Faro is a neighborhood in constant construction where life flourishes despite limited access to a formal water supply. By means of everyday practices, El Faro’s residents have claimed their right to water and mobilized to defend their self-managed community water supply. This article attempts to understand how these everyday water practices defy mainstream ideas on universal coverage, standardized mechanisms for access to water, and water rights. Based on an interdisciplinary theoretical framework combining political ecology, critical studies of law, and decolonial theory of everyday practice, this study applies an ethnographic approach in an effort to overcome exclusionary binaries in social theory. First, it recognizes the interdependent and bidirectional relationship between society and nature, allowing for the emergence of new ways of understanding water. Second, it challenges monolithic views of power, revealing the coexistence of multiple normative systems that interact with the state and its laws and, thus, the need for new ways of understanding the law. Third, it gives space for the expression of ch’ixi ways of being of those who live on borderlands. For these reasons, this article represents a contribution to the study of how everyday water practices affect equitable access to water and just water governing structures. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Everyday Practices, Everyday Water: From Foucault to Rivera-Cusicanqui (with a Few Stops in between)
Water 2019, 11(10), 2046; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11102046 - 30 Sep 2019
Abstract
In this article, we explore elements of the literature on practices and the everyday to provide reference points for water researchers. We cast a wide net in recognition of the complex and multifaceted nature of human relationships to water that cannot be reduced [...] Read more.
In this article, we explore elements of the literature on practices and the everyday to provide reference points for water researchers. We cast a wide net in recognition of the complex and multifaceted nature of human relationships to water that cannot be reduced to a single perspective. The article begins with the work of prominent French theorists including Foucault, Lefebvre, Bourdieu and de Certeau. Each grapples with the interrelationship between wider socio-political processes and practice in different ways. This leads us to pragmatism and non-representational theory in the second section, which argue that to understand socio-political processes, one must begin from practices. In the third section, we engage with work on practices in conditions of instability and precarity, which are widespread under contemporary conditions of post-colonial neoliberalism, and the role of “care” in mitigating their effects. In section four, we discuss the scholarship and practice of Silvia Rivera-Cusicanqui, who explores and extends many of the approaches elaborated above. The article concludes with a reflection on what this means for engaging with the multiple realities and ways of living with water. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Degrees and Forms of Commercialization: Community-Managed Water Operators in Lamongan Regency, Indonesia
Water 2019, 11(10), 1985; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11101985 - 23 Sep 2019
Abstract
Globally, the water services sector has adopted commercial principles since the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the reforms based on these principles have been introduced as part of broader neoliberal reforms in these countries. Often these reforms are portrayed as being homogenous and [...] Read more.
Globally, the water services sector has adopted commercial principles since the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the reforms based on these principles have been introduced as part of broader neoliberal reforms in these countries. Often these reforms are portrayed as being homogenous and standardized, suggesting there is a shared understanding of commercialization. However, in recent years, scholars have explored the lack of universality of these principles when comparing the implementation of these reforms across settings. Across different countries significant differences in implementation and outcomes of commercialization can be identified. In much of this literature, emphasis is placed on the differences visible in the implementation of commercialization across different geographical areas. In this article, we contribute to this literature by questioning the universal application of the principles of commercialization even within the same geographical area and actor. Using the case of community-based organizations in Lamongan Regency, Indonesia, this paper elaborates on the multiple manifestations of commercialization when documenting the actual practices of water operators. We argue that, within even the operations of these water operators, commercial principles are indeed differently implemented from the original commercial model of water provisioning. The deviations from the model can be attributed to not only local conditions under which the water providers operate, but also reflect the interests of the implementing agency and its environment. The deviations from the model of commercialization lead to questions about the validity of this model as they re-interpret key principles of the model. Yet, we find that little of these divergences and re-interpretations are reported upon. As a result, these two models of commercialization, the one practiced by the water operator and the one endorsed by donors and sector organizations co-exist as separate, and equally valid, guidelines. We advocate for a richer vocabulary to describe or refer to different manifestations and interpretations of commercialization as this may lead to a more honest development of water services for all. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Water Infrastructure Always In-The-Making: Distributing Water and Authority through the Water Supply Network in Moamba, Mozambique
Water 2019, 11(9), 1926; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11091926 - 15 Sep 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Using the concept of sociotechnical tinkering, this paper provides detailed empirical observations about the everyday practices of design, construction, operation, maintenance and use of a piped water supply network in a small town in Mozambique. We use these to show that the form, [...] Read more.
Using the concept of sociotechnical tinkering, this paper provides detailed empirical observations about the everyday practices of design, construction, operation, maintenance and use of a piped water supply network in a small town in Mozambique. We use these to show that the form, materiality, and functioning of this water infrastructure are constantly changing as result of interactions with its physical environment as well as in response to experimentation and improvisation by engineers, construction workers, operators and water users. Sociotechnical tinkering not just (re)distributes water, but also provides an avenue through which powers to control water flows can be wielded and exercised. In this sense, empirical attention to sociotechnical tinkering provides a useful entry-point for rethinking the distribution of control, authority and responsibility in water governance, or more broadly the relations between power and infrastructure. This, in turn, may yield new inspirations for identifying pragmatic possibilities for progressive water politics. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Water Brokers: Exploring Urban Water Governance through the Practices of Tanker Water Supply in Accra
Water 2019, 11(9), 1919; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11091919 - 14 Sep 2019
Abstract
Accra, the capital city of Ghana, is characterized by limited networked supply, heterogeneous water providers, and various forms of provision. In this paper, we explore how the people delivering water through water tankers shape the distribution of water across the city. Drawing on [...] Read more.
Accra, the capital city of Ghana, is characterized by limited networked supply, heterogeneous water providers, and various forms of provision. In this paper, we explore how the people delivering water through water tankers shape the distribution of water across the city. Drawing on empirical descriptions of water sourcing and distribution by truck drivers, we show that who gets what water at what price is shaped by the ability of tanker drivers to act as brokers, piecing together various social and material arrangements and resorting to different rationalities and expertise. We analyze how state actors deal with tanker supply seeking to reconcile their mandates with the realities of water supply. Analyzing urban water supply through the practices of water distribution, we show the messy and open-ended character of water governance processes. A practice-based approach makes the complex interrelations between different water providers across the city visible, and underscores the role of individual and collective identities, emotions, moral norms, and unequal interdependencies between actors in shaping urban water distributions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Engaging with Flows: Embodied Cognition in Water Provision
Water 2019, 11(9), 1751; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11091751 - 22 Aug 2019
Abstract
This article provides an ethnographic example of a practice-based approach to water governance. It presents the situated case study of a canalero (canal operator) in the everyday water distribution of an irrigation system in Western Mexico. The canalero represents the low-ranked field operators [...] Read more.
This article provides an ethnographic example of a practice-based approach to water governance. It presents the situated case study of a canalero (canal operator) in the everyday water distribution of an irrigation system in Western Mexico. The canalero represents the low-ranked field operators at the frontline of many water provision organizations around the world, thereby providing a wider relevance to this case study. In spite of different waves of modernization that aimed to reduce ‘the human element’ and control water flows from a distance, canaleros still operate the manually adjustable gates and intakes in many medium and large open canal irrigation systems. Through a precise documentation of the daily routines of administering water, money, and data flows, anticipating shortages and mediating between conflicting demands, we conceptualize their semi-autonomous field of competent action. In contrast to a rule-based or normative approach to water governance, we will argue that the canaleros’ cognition and competencies in mediating multiple resource flows are embodied and situated in specific social, technical and spatial arrangements for water provision. However, this field of professional competence is not clearly delineated and gets regularly contested in practice. The water operators deal with these ‘problems of control’, by drawing on their situational knowledge and embodied cognition acquired on-the-job. This case study outlines a framework for a practice-based and decentered study of water governance, focused on cognitive processes in water provision arrangements. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Attention to Sociotechnical Tinkering with Irrigation Infrastructure as a Way to Rethink Water Governance
Water 2019, 11(8), 1670; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11081670 - 12 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Inspired by the proposal of political scientists and anthropologists to focus on “practice” as the smallest unit of analysis for understanding politics, as well as the renewed scholarly attention to materiality, this paper sets out to show that detailed ethnographic attention to processes [...] Read more.
Inspired by the proposal of political scientists and anthropologists to focus on “practice” as the smallest unit of analysis for understanding politics, as well as the renewed scholarly attention to materiality, this paper sets out to show that detailed ethnographic attention to processes and acts of sociotechnical tinkering provides a useful entry-point for understanding water governance. This is so methodologically, because infrastructural forms of tinkering are very visible, and therefore researchable, manifestations of agency and change in water governance. Attention to sociotechnical tinkering helps shift the basis for understanding water realities from official norms, designs and laws to everyday practices. This in turn allows questioning, rather than assuming, how expertise and agency are exercised and distributed in water governance, thereby also providing useful information for re-thinking water politics. In addition, by explicitly engaging with the contingency and capriciousness of actual water flows, a sociotechnical tinkering approach entails a much-needed re-appreciation of the materiality of water, infrastructure and other matter, a re-appreciation that extends to those who design, construct, operate and use water infrastructure. Full article
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