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Erik Gawel and Kristina Bernsen

Although the traditional approach in water resources management is to address water-related scarcity problems at the local or regional scale, some see water as a global resource with global drivers and impacts, supporting the argument for a global governance of water. If water is not appropriately priced, or if “poor water governance“ creates adverse incentives for resource use in countries that export “virtual water,“ then increased demand from the world market may lead to the overexploitation of water or increasing pollution. Is this reason enough for a global governance of regional water-scarcity problems? On which scale should water-management problems actually be addressed, and can global action compensate for local and regional governance failure? The paper argues that compensating globally for regional governance failure could cause “problems of fit“ and present severe downside risks.

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Julia Baird, Ryan Plummer, Diane Dupont and Blair Carter

Drinking water quality problems are persistent and challenging for many of Canada's First Nations communities despite past and ongoing initiatives to improve the situation. These initiatives have often been employed without consideration for understanding the social context that is so critical for the development of appropriate water governance approaches. This article offers insights about the relationship between institutions for water governance and perceptions in three Ontario First Nations communities. Similarities among communities were particularly noticeable for gender where women valued water more highly and were less content with water quality. The findings presented here highlight potential impacts of displacement, gender, and water sources on perceptions of water quality and offer initial insights that indicate the need for further research to consider the potential for adaptive governance approaches that enhance fit between problem and social contexts.

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Infrastructures of progress and dispossession

Collective responses to shrinking water access among farmers in Arequipa, Peru

Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen

This article examines what economic growth and state versions of progress have done to small and medium-scale farmers in an urban setting, in Arequipa in southern Peru. The general reorganization of production, resources, and labor in the Peruvian economy has generated a discursive move to reposition small and medium-scale farmers as backward. This article analyzes how farmers struggle to find their place within a neoliberal urban ecology where different conceptions of what constitutes progress in contemporary Peru influence the landscape. Using an analytical lens that takes material and organizational infrastructures and practices into account, and situates these in specific historical processes, the article argues that farmers within the urban landscape of Arequipa struggle to reclaim land and water, and reassert a status that they experience to be losing. Such a historical focus on material and organizational infrastructural arrangements, it is argued, can open up for understanding how local and beyond-local processes tangle in complex ways and are productive of new subjectivities; how relations are reconfigured in neoliberal landscapes of progress and dispossession. Such an approach makes evident how state and nonstate actors invest affects, interests, and desires differently within a given landscape.

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Neoliberal Water Management

Trends, Limitations, Reformulations

Kathryn Furlong

The impact of neoliberal policy reform on water management has been a topic of significant debate since the mid-1980s. On one side, a number of organizations have generated an abundant literature in support of neoliberal reforms to solve a range of water governance challenges. To improve water efficiency, allocation, and management, supporters have advocated the introduction and/or strengthening of market mechanisms, private sector ownership and operation, and business-like administration. Other individuals and groups have responded critically to the prescribed reforms, which rarely delivered the predicted results or became fully actualized. This article endeavors to articulate the varying sets of claims, to analyze the trends, to test them against their forecasted benefits, and to examine certain prominent proposals for reforming the reforms. The water sector experience with neoliberalization reveals several sets of contradictions within the neoliberal program, and these are discussed in the final section of the article.

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De la gestión local a la gobernanza global

Actores e interacciones multiniveles en la gestión del agua en la ciudad de México

Joyce Valdovinos

*Full article is in Spanish

English abstract: The provision of water services has traditionally been considered a responsibility of the state. During the late 1980s, the private sector emerged as a key actor in the provision of public services. Mexico City was no exception to this trend and public authorities awarded service contracts to four private consortia in 1993. Through consideration of this case study, two main questions arise: First, why do public authorities establish partnerships with the private sector? Second, what are the implications of these partnerships for water governance? This article focuses, on the one hand, on the conceptual debate of water as a public and/or private good, while identifying new trends and strategies carried out by private operators. On the other hand, it analyzes the role of the state and its relationships with other actors through a governance model characterized by partnerships and multilevel networks.

Spanish abstract: La provisión del servicio del agua ha sido tradicionalmente considerada como una responsabilidad del Estado. A finales de la década de 1980, el sector privado emerge como un actor clave en el suministro de servicios públicos. La ciudad de México no escapa a esta tendencia y en 1993 las autoridades públicas firman contratos de servicios con cuatro consorcios privados. A través de este estudio de caso, dos preguntas son planteadas: ¿Por qué las autoridades públicas establecen partenariados con el sector privado? ¿Cuáles son las implicaciones de dichos partenariados en la gobernanza del agua? Este artículo aborda por una parte, el debate conceptual del agua como bien público y/o privado, identificando nuevas tendencias y estrategias de los operadores privados. Por otra parte, se analizan el rol y las relaciones del Estado con otros actores a través de un modelo de gobernanza, definido en términos de partenariados y redes multi-niveles.

French abstract: Les services de l'eau ont été traditionnellement considérés comme une responsabilité de l'État. À la fin des années 1980, le secteur privé est apparu comme un acteur clé dans la fourniture de certains services publics. La ville de Mexico n'a pas échappé à cette tendance et en 1993, les autorités publiques ont signé des contrats de services avec quatre consortiums privés. À travers cette étude de cas, nous nous interrogerons sur deux aspects : pourquoi les autorités publiques établissentelles des partenariats avec le secteur privé ? Quelles sont les implications de ces partenariats sur la gouvernance de l'eau ? Cet article s'intéresse, d'une part, au débat conceptuel sur l'eau en tant que bien public et/ou privé, en identifiant les tendances nouvelles et les stratégies menées par les opérateurs privés. D'autre part y sont analysés le rôle de l'État et ses relations avec d'autres acteurs à travers un modèle de gouvernance, défini en termes de partenariats, et des réseaux multi-niveaux.

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Stephen P. Mumme, Oscar Ibáñez and Suzanne M. Till

English abstract: This article examines the state of binational multi-level water governance along the U.S.-Mexico border. Drawing on the well known multi-level governance (MLG) typology advanced by Hooghe and Marks (2003), the article pro files the Type I and Type II binational water institutions and programs now in place along the U.S.-Mexico border and examines their role in solving recent binational water disputes. The article shows that Type II MLG institutions make a modest contribution to the resolution of recent water conflicts on the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers, enriching capacity for achieving cooperative and sustainable solutions in U.S.-Mexico border water management. Supporting and strengthening the new Type II MLG water management institutions is likely to facilitate greater binational cooperation in managing internationally shared water resources along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Spanish abstract: Este artículo examina el estado de la gobernanza multi-nivel (GMN) binacional del agua a lo largo de la frontera México-Estados Unidos. Utilizando la tipología ampliamente conocida de Hooghe y Marks (2003), el texto per fila las instituciones binacionales del agua y sus programas Tipo I y Tipo II que se encuentran a lo largo de esta frontera, y examina el rol que juegan en la solución de recientes disputas binacionales por el agua. El artículo muestra como las instituciones Tipo II de GMN realizan una modesta contribución a la solución de recientes conflictos del agua en los ríos Grande y Colorado, enriqueciendo la capacidad para lograr soluciones sustentables en base a la cooperación para el manejo del agua. El apoyo y fortalecimiento de nuevas instituciones de manejo de agua Tipo II de GMN probablemente facilitará una mejor cooperación binacional en la administración de recursos hídricos compartidos a lo largo de la frontera México-Estados Unidos.

French abstract: Cet article fait état de la gouvernance multi-niveaux (GMN) et binationale de l'eau le long de la frontière entre les États-Unis et le Mexique. Ce e recherche s'aligne sur la typologie bien connue de la gouvernance multi-niveaux proposée par Hooghe et Marks (2003). Elle décrit les types I et II des institutions binationales de l'eau, ainsi que les programmes actuellement réalisés le long de la frontière américano-mexicaine, tout en examinant leur rôle dans la résolution des conflits binationaux récents portant sur l'eau. L'article montre que les institutions multiniveaux de type II apportent une modeste contribution à la résolution des conflits récents au sujet des fleuves Rio Grande et Colorado, avec pour conséquence que la gestion des eaux transfrontalières entre les États-Unis et le Mexique voit un renforcement de ses compétences pour apporter des solutions coopératives et durables. Encourager et renforcer les institutions de gestion de l'eau de nouveau type II de la gouvernance multiniveaux est à même de faciliter une plus grande coopération binationale en termes de gestion des ressources aquatiques internationales, le long de la frontière entre les États-Unis et le Mexique.