Thickening the Organizational Maze: Decentralization and the Consolidation of Societal Stakeholders in Ecuadorian Water Management

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Decentralizing water management responsibilities to water users, private initiatives and regional governments has been on the agenda of States and donors since at least the mid-1980’s. These often, but not always, include more systematic efforts to organize water user organizations and higher scale network platforms and federations as new actors in local irrigation management. These reform packages have had a neo-liberal flavour and generally advocate for a reduced role of the state, water pricing, financial autonomy of irrigation agencies, and devolution of management responsibilities to lower levels. In Ecuador, NGOs and state institutions have embraced this idea for at least the last two decennia, leading to different institutional reforms, programs and policies. In the irrigation sector water users were compelled by law to organize in water user associations and slowly started to take over responsibilities of operation, administration and maintenance of the formerly State managed systems. Once these organizations were consolidated water users participation was expanded to broader spatial scales of governance. This article analyzes these changes and presents evidence of how in the last two decades new state and non-state institutions and organizations have emerged through processes of decentralization. These new centers of authority have created new fields of contestation for authority, legitimacy, resources and control that struggle to defend and further strengthen the playing fields in which they have gained autonomy, power and control. As this paper argues, the struggles that emerge in such a polycentric setting make water management a highly negotiated and politically laden issue.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventCERES Summer School 2011 -
Duration: 1 Jul 2011 → …


ConferenceCERES Summer School 2011
Period1/07/11 → …

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