TA3 Themes

TA3 covers two large fields of research, teaching and practical intervention. The first is the “urban water cycle”, involving the processes of abstraction, production, circulation, use, and return to the water sources in their multiple dimensions and forms, in an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective. The second field intersects with the first but also includes processes that are located outside the urban milieu, as it addresses the question of essential public services based in one way or another on the use of water, including the distribution of water for human consumption, wastewater management, management of urban rainwater, etc. This field also has intersections with other Thematic Areas, including TA5 Water and Health, TA6 Basins and Hydrosocial Territories, and TA8 Water and Disasters.

 

Featured topics covered by TA3 members:

  • The politics of water: water management and configurations of social and political power.
  • Mercantilization / privatization / internationalization of public water and sanitation utilities – Experiences of privatization and deprivatization of water services
  • Emergence of “progressive” water and sanitation utilities (conceptualization and forms of operation).
  • Public-public, public-community, and community-community associations for the management of urban and rural water and sanitation services.
  • Multidimensional processes of water valuation (economic, cultural, “intrinsec” values, etc.)
  • Struggles for the democratization of the politics and management of urban water and of essential water and sanitation services.
  • Politics about the urban water cycle and essential water services based on the principle of equality.
  • Water politics and the construction of citizenship; Access to water as a right and as a social, common, and public good. Links between citizens and the State through water distribution systems.
  • Socio-technical innovations to democratize the politics and management of water and sanitation services.
  • The meaning, contradictions, and challenges presented by the notion of the “human right to water”. Legislation and practices in relation to the human right to water.
  • Integrated water management.
  • Urban socio-hydro resilience. Management of water uncertainty, threats of droughts, floods, etc. Management of urban metabolism, balance between the quality of urban life and the environmental impact of the urban water cycle. Management of urban growth and its impact on the water cycle.
  • Management of rainwater in cities (collection, treatment, storage, distribution, uses, legislation, etc.).
  • Individual and collective practices of access and distribution of water.
  • Social networks (of kin, historical, political, commercial) linked to everyday water exchanges.
  • Power relations associated to knowledge and implementation of techniques for the abstraction, treatment, and transportation of water for human consumption.
  • Representations of nature, humans, and society linked to the forms of access and use of water.

 

Relation between these topics and the Network’s objectives and research priorities
The main topics of TA3 “The urban water cycle and essential public services” are related to the Network’s strategic and specific objectives at different levels. Firstly, they address theoretical debates, particularly from the fields of environmental sociology, urban studies, theories of development and their critiques, ecological economics and political ecology, complexity theories, among other. Secondly, the topics of TA3 contribute to the methodological discussion by integrating different fields of knowledge: anthropology and urban geography, environmental sciences, politics, health sciences, law, economics, history, engineering, urban planning, public policies, and sociology among others. The proposal is to develop interdisciplinary coordination to address the complex processes and dynamics characteristic of the urban water cycle and water-based essential public services. The inter- and transdisciplinary approach also allows to consider different aspects of the urban water cycle: its social and political dimension, its symbolic aspects, the material and technical dimension and its relation with the fields of ecology and health. The participation of researchers from different countries and regions contribute to consolidate and create new cooperation links between the researchers and their institutions, as well as with other colleagues and organizations. In addition, the involvement of non-academic actors, from public-sector specialists at different levels, representatives of labour unions, NGOs, and community and social movements, among others, allows the co-production of knowledge in transdisciplinary perspective and strengthens the links between the academia and social sectors, especially those who struggle for the substantive democratization of water politics and management.

The thematic area’s themes and activities are oriented by the Network’s Objectives and Research Priorities, as TA3 members

  • Analyse in a critical manner the dominant discourses related to water politics and management and the processes of knowledge production related to water and water services.
  • Study the conflicts emerging around the Access and distribution of water in cities.
  • Considers water infrastructures and technologies as the product of particular socio-economic, cultural and political systems.
  • Reflects on the “politicization” and “de-politicization” of water issues in urban context and in relation to water based services more generally.
  • Addresses different forms of water management and the articulation between management models and regimes.
  • Evaluates water-related public policies from a critical perspective, assuming the need to prioritize policies grounded on the principle of equality and in the rejection of exclusionary policies.
  • Contributes to make visible the popular struggles (led by social movements, civil organizations, labour unions, and other relevant actors) over the access to water and for the democratization of water politics and management.
  • Promotes interdisciplinary approaches, integrating the social, technical, and humanistic disciplines, including history, in the processes of knowledge production, teaching, and formulation of proposals for practical interventions. Adopts transdiciplinarity as a guiding principle and as a practice, involving non-academic actors, social movements, representatives of the public sector, labour unions, community organizations, etc., in such processes.

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