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Liquid Relations

Contested Water Rights and Legal Complexity

Dik Roth, Rutgerd Boelens, and Margreet Zwarteveen

Publication Year: 2005

Water management plays an increasingly critical role in national and international policy agendas. Growing scarcity, overuse, and pollution, combined with burgeoning demand, have made socio-political and economic conflicts almost unavoidable. Proposals to address water shortages are usually based on two key assumptions: (1) water is a commodity that can be bought and sold and (2) “states,” or other centralized entities, should control access to water.

            Liquid Relations criticizes these assumptions from a socio-legal perspective. Eleven case studies examine laws, distribution, and irrigation in regions around the world, including the United States, Nepal, Indonesia, Chile, Ecuador, India, and South Africa. In each case, problems are shown to be both ecological and human-made. The essays also consider the ways that gender, ethnicity, and class differences influence water rights and control.

            In the concluding chapter, the editors draw on the essays’ findings to offer an alternative approach to water rights and water governance issues. By showing how issues like water scarcity and competition are embedded in specific resource use and management histories, this volume highlights the need for analyses and solutions that are context-specific rather than universal.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Liquid Relations is the fruit of solid relations of fellowship, research collaboration, and friendship. It is the result of efforts of individual researchers and professionals engaged in this collective endeavor, who have joined their visions, ideas, and concepts as well as points of debate, consensus, and contradiction. Our common purpose...


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pp. ix-x

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Chapter 1: Legal Complexity in the Analysis of Water Rights and Water Resources Management

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pp. 1-20

Since the 1990s, water problems have been high on national and international policy agendas. Climate change, population growth, urbanization, industrialization, and intensification of agriculture are putting increasing pressures on the resource (see Gleick et al. 2002; Gupta 2004 ; Petrella 1999). Growing scarcity, overexploitation...

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Chapter 2: Prescribing Gender Equity? The Case of the Tukucha Nala Irrigation System, Central Nepal

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pp. 21-43

This chapter discusses the potential of law to contribute to progressive social change in water management by looking at legal attempts to improve the gender balance in water users’ associations (WUAs) in Nepal. The gap between women’s responsibilities in irrigation and their voice in local irrigation management organizations...

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Chapter 3: Defending Indigenous Water Rights with the Laws of a Dominant Culture: The Case of the United States

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pp. 44-65

The United States is one of the few nations of the world to provide distinctive and apparently robust legal recognition to the water rights of its indigenous peoples. On rivers in the arid, western United States where most ethnic groups reside, indigenous peoples have rights to water that are superior to those of their nonindigenous...

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Chapter 4: In the Shadow of Uniformity: Balinese Irrigation Management in a Public Works Irrigation System in Luwu, South Sulawesi, Indonesia

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pp. 66-96

Technocratic approaches to irrigation development and management have gradually given way to participatory but still largely instrumental approaches, with a focus on how water users should perform local irrigation management tasks and functions. Thus, joint management is often characterized by devolution of day-to-day managerial...

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Chapter 5: Anomalous Water Rights and the Politics of Normalization: Collective Water Control and Privatization Policies in the Andean Region

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pp. 97-123

Current thinking about water rights in the Andes, as in many other regions of the world, is intimately tied up with the discussion of privatization. For the sake of increasing water use efficiency and productivity, and strongly justified by the proclamation of a lurking water crisis, reforms are proposed or being implemented that promote the transferability and marketability of water, allowing it to be used where...

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Chapter 6: Complexities of Water Governance: Rise and Fall of Groundwater for Urban Use

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pp. 124-143

Kathmandu, the administrative, economic, and cultural capital of Nepal, is undergoing rapid and radical demographic, social, and economic changes that directly impinge on water service demands and the regulation and planning of water resources. The current population of Kathmandu Valley is estimated to be approximately 1,200,000.1 The population density in Kathmandu ranges from an average of nine persons...

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Chapter 7: Special Law: Recognition and Denial of Diversity in Andean Water Control

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pp. 144-171

In the Andean region, norms and practices of peasant and indigenous communities play a key role in local water management. In irrigation, for example, users’ groups and organizations have developed—sometimes over centuries— irrigation management practices that incorporate elements from Andean, colonial, and postcolonial...

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Chpater 8: A Win-Some Lose-All Game: Social Differentiation and Politics of Groundwater Markets in North Gujarat

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pp. 172-194

Agriculture in India has gone through enormous changes since the Green Revolution. Based on external inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, high-yielding variety seeds (HYVs) and irrigation, Green Revolution technology became popular in many states of India. Large surface irrigation schemes were initiated in the sixties, and subsidy for HYVs and fertilizers was provided with the aim of making India self-sufficient...

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Chapter 9: Redressing Racial Inequities through Water Law in South Africa: Interaction and Contest among Legal Frameworks

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pp. 195-214

In the apartheid era prior to 1999, South Africa was a country torn by formal racial divisions. Under a comprehensive official policy of racial segregation, and in an attempt to create a society of whites only, the government of South Africa broke off its association with the British Commonwealth and created a white republic in 1961.1 Simultaneously...

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Chapter 10: Routes to Water Rights

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pp. 215-236

As water becomes increasingly contested, water users are increasingly affected by the actions of strangers with whom they have few other links besides sharing the use of a common resource. The success of attempts to resolve conflicts and coordinate collective action in water use depends, among other things, on the ability to find efficient...

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Chapter 11: Analyzing Water Rights, Multiple Uses, and Intersectoral Water Transfers

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pp. 237-253

Demand for water continues to grow worldwide. At the same time, developed water resources are almost fully utilized in many places, and the financial, environmental, and political costs of developing new water control systems are rising. The combination of rising demand and limited supplies is creating scarcity and competition between...

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Chapter 12: Water Rights and Legal Pluralism: Beyond Analysis and Recognition

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pp. 254-268

One important reason to embark upon the effort to compile this book was to bridge the felt gap between the analysis of water rights and the assumptions and practices of intervention. On the one hand, academic anthropologists criticize water professionals for overly simplifying the water world and for not recognizing its socioeconomic...


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pp. 269-292

Notes on the Contributors

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pp. 293-298


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pp. 299-313

E-ISBN-13: 9780813537849
E-ISBN-10: 0813537843
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813536743

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2005