Browsing UA Faculty Research by Journal
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Clean Energy and Water Conflicts: Contested Narratives of Small Hydropower in Mexico’s Sierra Madre OrientalSmall hydropower is poised to undergo a global boom, potentially accounting for as much as 75% of new hydroelectric installations over the next two decades. There are extensive bodies of literature arguing both that small hydropower is an environmentally benign technology benefitting rural communities, and, conversely, that unchecked small hydro development is a potential environmental calamity with dire consequences for rivers and those who depend upon them. Despite this debate, few studies have considered the ways in which small hydropower is socially constructed in the sites targeted for its development. This paper focuses on the Bobos-Nautla River Basin, in the Sierra Madre Oriental of Mexico, where numerous small hydropower projects are planned. The central argument is that the dominant framing of small hydropower in Mexico focuses on claimed benefits of 'clean' energy, sidelining any consideration of impacts on water resources and local environments. However, even if this narrative has dominated policy-making, it is being actively contested by a social movement that constructs these projects as water theft. The narratives surrounding small hydropower are reconstructed from interviews with government officials, activists, NGO workers and residents of communities near project sites conducted during ten weeks of fieldwork in 2014. The results of this fieldwork are contextualised by an overview of evolving trends in hydropower governance globally that situates the boom in small hydro within shifting relationships between states, international financial institutions, and private finance, as well as an historical account of the evolution of hydropower governance in Mexico that speaks to long-standing conflicts over water use for hydroelectric generation.
Coexistence and Conflict: IWRM and Large-Scale Water Infrastructure Development in Piura, PeruDespite the emphasis of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) on 'soft' demand-side management, large-scale water infrastructure is increasingly being constructed in basins managed under an IWRM framework. While there has been substantial research on IWRM, few scholars have unpacked how IWRM and large-scale water infrastructure development coexist and conflict. Piura, Peru is an important site for understanding how IWRM and capital-intensive, concrete-heavy water infrastructure development articulate in practice. After 70 years of proposals and planning, the Regional Government of Piura began construction of the mega-irrigation project, Proyecto Especial de Irrigacion e Hidroelectrico del Alto Piura (PEIHAP) in 2013. PEIHAP, which will irrigate an additional 19,000 hectares (ha), is being realised in the wake of major reforms in the Chira-Piura River Basin, a pilot basin for the IWRM-inspired 2009 Water Resources Law. We first map the historical trajectory of PEIHAP as it mirrors the shifting political priorities of the Peruvian state. We then draw on interviews with the newly formed River Basin Council, regional government, PEIHAP, and civil society actors to understand why and how these differing water management paradigms coexist. We find that while the 2009 Water Resources Law labels large-scale irrigation infrastructure as an 'exceptional measure', this development continues to eclipse IWRM provisions of the new law. This uneasy coexistence reflects the parallel desires of the state to imbue water policy reform with international credibility via IWRM while also furthering economic development goals via large-scale water infrastructure. While the participatory mechanisms and expertise of IWRM-inspired river basin councils have not been brought to bear on the approval and construction of PEIHAP, these institutions will play a crucial role in managing the myriad resource and social conflicts that are likely to result.
Social Networks for Management of Water Scarcity: Evidence from the San Miguel Watershed, Sonora, MexicoPervasive social and ecological water crises in Mexico remain, despite over two decades of legal and institutional backing for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as a policy tenet. In this article we apply a socialshed analysis to uncover and understand the geographical and jurisdictional forces influencing the social construction and simultaneous fragmentation of the San Miguel Watershed (SMW) in the state of Sonora, in Mexico's water-scarcity bulls-eye. Specific insights derived from an empirical analysis include that water management (WM) is socially embedded in dense networks of family and friends, farmers and ranchers, citizens and local government - all to varying degrees sharing information about local water crises. Irrigation water user representatives (WUR) are connected across communities and within their own municipalities, but interwatershed social links with other WUR are virtually nonexistent, despite high levels of awareness of crossmunicipality WM problems. Implementation of IWRM as a federal policy by a single agency and the creation of basin councils and subsidiary technical committees for groundwater management have not been sufficient for technical - much less social - integration at the watershed level. This study shows that the SMW socialshed remains fragmented by local jurisdictions; without coordinated agency-jurisdiction-local action fomenting social connections, a socialshed will not emerge.