Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilLireLes comptes rendus2020Franck Poupeau, Lala Razafilahela...

Franck Poupeau, Lala Razafilahela, Jérémy Robert, Delphine Mercier, Gilles Massardier, Pedro Roberto Jacobi (dir.), Water conflicts and hydrocracy in the Americas. Coalitions, networks, policies

Igor Martinache
Water conflicts and hydrocracy in the Americas
Franck Poupeau, Lala Razafilahela, Jérémy Robert, Delphine Mercier, Gilles Massardier, Pedro Roberto Jacobi (dir.), Water conflicts and hydrocracy in the Americas. Coalitions, networks, policies, São Paulo, Universidade de São Paulo, 2018, 444 p., ISBN : 9788586923494.
Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1 It is also the title of an interesting documentary movie directed by Sam Bozzo in 2008 and freely a (...)
  • 2 Such as Water, water alternatives, water research or hydrogeology journal, among many others.
  • 3 For example, the recent section: Olivier Petit, Arnaud Buchs, Philippe Roman, Iratxe Calvo-Mendieta (...)
  • 4 Such as the Palgrave studies in water governance: policy and practice series from the publisher Spr (...)

1At a time when, with the help of climate change, droughts are set to multiply in many parts of the world, the qualification of water as ‘blue gold’ seems more relevant than ever1. However, the latter has a major flaw: that of suggesting that it is a natural and naturally scarce resource, even though the challenges it poses also cover excesses, as illustrated by floods, and above all that its distribution and freshwater quality are very closely dependent on human activities. In other words, the collection, distribution, use and treatment of water are eminently political issues in the sense that they involve a whole series of decisions that are not simply of a technical nature. Though this collective book reminds us of this fact, its contribution is far from being limited to such issues. Indeed, water governance is now the subject of an abundant literature and even constitutes a real field of research with its own academic journals2, special issues in generalist journals3 and dedicated editorial collections4 particularly conducive to interdisciplinarity.

2The book is the result of a research project mainly funded by the French National Research Agency entitled Bluegrass (Struggles for blue gold: from grassroot mobilizations to international policies of environment) and covers the American continent with a dozen localized case studies from Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia. The ambition, as the editors immediately state, is to go beyond the ‘water wars’, i.e. to open the black box of what has now become a commonplace when designating conflicts over the appropriation of water resources. Starting from the observation that opposing interests do not necessarily give rise to confrontation, researchers have also sought to go beyond a series of trivialized oppositions, in particular between public and private or local and global.

  • 5 Paul Sabatier, Hank Jenkins-Smith, Policy change and learning: an advocacy coalition approach, Boul (...)

3To do so, the authors used the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) method developed in the early 1990s by Paul Sabatier and Hank Jenkins-Smith5, which is based on the principle that public policies and their evolution can be explained by coalitions of public and private actors, each of whom shares common representations and values and acts in a coordinated manner, potentially at different scales. To do this, in each of the ten cases studied, the different teams of researchers implemented the same methodology based on a grid of shared interviews dealing with the representation of the issues at stake, the relations that the interviewee maintains with the other actors he or she considers relevant in the conflict in question and, finally, the attributes of the respondent, notably his or her trajectory and possible multi-positioning – certain actors thus often playing an important role as a ‘policy broker’.

  • 6 This in the perspective opened by Georg Simmel reminds us that although the opponents of a conflict (...)

4Six types of links are thus envisaged to formalize coalitions: ‘pure coalition’ links between actors driven by the same values, ‘interested coordination’ links when they do not share the same values but have common interests leading them to pool resources; ‘mandatory coordination’ links, when they share the same institutional space and are forced to take decisions together; ‘hierarchical coordination’ links, when one is subordinate to the other; ‘information exchange’ links; and finally, of course, ‘conflictual’ links6.

5Applied in each field with particular attention to the different scales of action and decision-making, this method, which combines quantitative and qualitative analysis of networks, thus makes it possible to bring out the relational structure that links the actors in the conflicts studied, not only at the level of the most prominent institutions or actors – who sometimes play only a very marginal role in the end – but also in relation to the evolution of the situations studied and the decisions taken. The case studies themselves are divided into three main parts: the first, entitled ‘Inequalities and water conflicts’, brings together an analysis of the difficult treatment of drought in La Paz, Bolivia in 2016; another concerns the laborious deployment of the Municipal Plan of Basic Sanitation in the city of Duque de Caxias in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil; the third is an investigation into sanitation and sewerage in the municipality of Ubatuba, also in Brazil but in the neighbouring state of São Paulo; while the fourth chapter focuses on a popular protest movement around the Zapotillo dam in Mexico.

  • 7 Sort of parliament of water uses that can be found in many countries but which have a particular ro (...)

6Entitled ‘Institutional reconfigurations and citizen participation’, the second part of the book brings together texts on the functioning and place of participatory bodies, in this case the Water Council of the city of Lima in Peru, local communities in the framework of the XIII Villages’ conflict started in 2007 in the state of Morelos in Mexico – an analysis in which the author is particularly interested in the role of experts – and finally the Watershed Basin Committee (Comitê de Bacia Hidrográfica7) in the County of Ilhabela, also in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. In doing so, these different analyses also offer an interesting look at participatory democracy by highlighting the broader networks and coalitions in which it is embedded.

  • 8 This case is further developed in a later book by the same authors on the comparative development o (...)

7‘Hydrocracy and the water crisis’ is the title of the third part which includes a text on the ecological and political transition in Mexico from the suspension of parliamentary debates on the General Water Law in Mexico in 2015 and the integration of new stakeholders in the federal water governance system. A second text deals with the treatment of the great drought that hit south-eastern Brazil between 2013 and 2016 and more specifically a project for transferring water between two hydraulic systems in the metropolitan region of São Paulo. Finally, a third text deals with the conflicts surrounding the implementation of an anti-drought policy in one of the western states of the United States, Arizona, by showing how the reconfiguration of public action and of the actors involved in this sector accompanies a reconsideration of a conception of development that prioritizes economic growth8.

8All in all, while it is obviously impossible to account for all the richness of this work, both empirical and theoretical, it can be said that the Bluegrass project has unquestionably fulfilled its initial objectives, namely ‘repositioning conflicts about access to water within the framework of process that go beyond territories of problems’, ‘understand these conflicts not only in the context of contemporary realignments of public action [...], but also in the context of “economic transition”’ and ‘integrate variables often ignored by the mainstream theories in this current’ (p. 355 and sq.). Even if, as the authors readily acknowledge, the ACF method is obviously not without its limitations, the comparative analysis of coalitions makes it possible to go beyond the simple juxtaposition of monographs, which already has the merit of not overwhelming the complexity of reality under an overarching theory, but also of highlighting scenarios for the evolution of these situations (six in total), according to the configurations formed by these coalitions. In doing so, the book is equally likely to be of use both to readers interested in the issue of water governance and to researchers seeking a methodological framework for analyzing complex public action issues. Not to mention public and private actors, including activists, wishing to better understand the delicate alchemy between social conflicts and public action.

Haut de page

Notes

1 It is also the title of an interesting documentary movie directed by Sam Bozzo in 2008 and freely available on the Internet: https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/blue-gold-world-water-wars-2008/.

2 Such as Water, water alternatives, water research or hydrogeology journal, among many others.

3 For example, the recent section: Olivier Petit, Arnaud Buchs, Philippe Roman, Iratxe Calvo-Mendieta, ‘Ecological economics of water: social and political perspectives’, Economical Ecolog, 28 July 2020, on line: https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/ecological-economics/special-issue/100ZGRC83B9.

4 Such as the Palgrave studies in water governance: policy and practice series from the publisher Springer: https://www.springer.com/series/15054.

5 Paul Sabatier, Hank Jenkins-Smith, Policy change and learning: an advocacy coalition approach, Boulder (Col.), Westwiew Press. For a presentation in French, see Paul Sabatier: ‘Advocacy coalition framework (ACF)’, in Laurie Boussaguet (dir.), Dictionnaire des politiques publiques, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 2010, p. 49-57; Henri Bergeron, Yves Surel, Jérôme Valluy, « L’Advocacy Coalition Framework. Une contribution au renouvellement des études de politiques publiques ? », Politix, n° 41, 1998, p. 195-223, on line: https://www.persee.fr/doc/polix_0295-2319_1998_num_11_41_1718.

6 This in the perspective opened by Georg Simmel reminds us that although the opponents of a conflict have opposing objectives and often opposing values, they nevertheless share the recognition of the importance of what is at stake.

7 Sort of parliament of water uses that can be found in many countries but which have a particular role in Brazil insofar as they have been generalized to the whole country by a federal law of 1997 (Lei nº 9.433/1997) in view of the conclusive results of local experiences.

8 This case is further developed in a later book by the same authors on the comparative development of water policies in Arizona and California over a longer period. See Franck Poupeau, Brian F. O’neill, Joan Cortinas Muñoz, Murielle Coeurdray, Eliza Benites-Gambirazio, The field of water policy. power and scarcity in the American Southwest, Abingdon, Routledge, 2019, reviewed by Corinne Delmas for Lectures: https://journals.openedition.org/lectures/42323.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Igor Martinache, « Franck Poupeau, Lala Razafilahela, Jérémy Robert, Delphine Mercier, Gilles Massardier, Pedro Roberto Jacobi (dir.), Water conflicts and hydrocracy in the Americas. Coalitions, networks, policies », Lectures [En ligne], Les comptes rendus, mis en ligne le 14 septembre 2020, consulté le 22 septembre 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lectures/43743

Haut de page

Rédacteur

Igor Martinache

Prag de sciences économiques et sociales à l’Université de Paris-Diderot.

Articles du même rédacteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

© Lectures - Toute reproduction interdite sans autorisation explicite de la rédaction / Any replication is submitted to the authorization of the editors

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search