Water Sustainability: Anthropological Approaches and Prospects

Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 401-415, 2010

15 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2013 Last revised: 13 Feb 2014

See all articles by Ben Orlove

Ben Orlove

Columbia University

Steven C. Caton

Harvard University - Department of Anthropology

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Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Water has become an urgent theme in anthropology as the worldwide need to provide adequate supplies of clean water to all people becomes more challenging. Anthropologists contribute by seeing water not only as a resource, but also as a substance that connects many realms of social life. They trace the different forms of valuing water, examine the often unequal distribution of water, explore the rules and institutions that govern water use and shape water politics, and study the multiple, often conflicting knowledge systems through which actors understand water. They offer ethnographic insights into key water sites — watersheds, water regimes, and waterscapes — found in all settings, though with widely varying characteristics. Anthropologists provide a critical examination of a concept called integrated water resource management (IWRM), which has become hegemonic in the global discourse of sustainable development.

Keywords: value, equity, governance, politics, regimes, integrated water resource management

Suggested Citation

Orlove, Ben and Caton, Steven C., Water Sustainability: Anthropological Approaches and Prospects (2010). Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 401-415, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2240443

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Steven C. Caton

Harvard University - Department of Anthropology ( email )

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