The danger of naturalizing water policy concepts: Water productivity and effiency discourses from field irrigation to virtual water trade

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89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Naturalization and universal application of concepts such as ‘efficiency’ and ‘productivity’ by policy makers and water experts in the water sector leads water managers and water users to internalize these norms. As we show in this exploratory paper, the effects could be threefold: first, evidence suggests that ‘efficiency’ discourses may justify policies and projects that deprive smallholders of water use rights; second, expert-driven water policy and project notions of efficiency tend to interfere with existing local water management practices and may harm livelihood and production strategies, and third, water users may come to blame themselves for underachieving according to the norms that are established in the dominant power-knowledge structures. This article deals with three mutually connected water policy arenas where maximization of water productivity and efficiency is fiercely promoted: technical water use efficiency (the engineer's realm), allocation efficiency (the economist's realm) at national levels, and the arena of international trade, where allocation efficiency is sought through virtual water flows embedded in agricultural commodities trade. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-26
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Volume108
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • markets
  • rights
  • performance
  • politics
  • commons
  • gender
  • impact
  • chile
  • power
  • food

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