Volume 35, Issue 6

November 2019

Editorial »

Water quality management: a globally neglected issue

Asit K. Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada

Research Article

Developing new urban water supplies: investigating motivations and barriers to groundwater use in Cape Town

Emma Luker and Leila M. Harris

Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Contact: Emma Luker | Email: emma.luker@ubc.ca


Many cities are experiencing increasing water resource stress. In Cape Town, South Africa, surface water supplies are at a record low due to a multi-year drought crisis which began in 2015. This paper analyzes the range of motivations, possibilities and obstacles related to diversifying Cape Town’s water supply system through the upscaling of groundwater resources. Drawing on insights from local experts, it is maintained that uncertainty surrounding groundwater and drought-management practices present significant barriers to Cape Town’s ongoing water diversification efforts. This paper provides further insight and discussion for future water planning in Cape Town, as well as for other urban, water-scarce, regions.

Pages: 917–937


Research Article

Managing the wicked problem of Devils Lake flooding along the US–Canada border

Gehendra Kharela, Rebecca Romsdahlb and Andrei Kirilenkoc

aDepartment of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, USA; bDepartment of Earth System Science and Policy, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, USA; cDepartment of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA

Contact: Gehendra Kharel | Email: kharelg@gmail.com


The flooding of Devils Lake, North Dakota, is a multi-decade, multibillion-dollar, and yet unsolved water management issue along the US–Canada border. In this study, we define this situation as a  ‘wicked problem’ and suggest a ‘green paradiplomacy’–based framework that fosters multiactor, multiscale collaboration across jurisdictions as a management strategy. We interviewed stakeholders  and combined their perceptions with currently employed  management strategies to assess the potential for green paradiplomacy  to address the Devils Lake problem. This study may  encourage further discussion of green paradiplomacy as a strategy  to manage other transboundary watershed problems along the US–Canada border and elsewhere.

Pages: 938–958


Research Article

Explaining improvements and continuing challenges in water access in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Sarah L. Smiley

Department of Geography, Kent State University at Salem, Salem, OH, USA

Contact: Sarah L. Smiley | Email: ssmiley8@kent.edu


The equitable and universal provision of safe and affordable water is one of the Sustainable Development Goals, but progress has been slow, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. This paper presents a case study of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to highlight water access progress at the city scale. Using household surveys and interviews with officials, it explains improvements in hours of water availability and numbers of household water connections, but also discusses the remaining challenges with water cost and customer satisfaction. To achieve the goal of universal access, the city must further increase water production and address concerns with how water quality is monitored.

Pages: 959–976


Research Article

Water buybacks to recover depleted aquifers in south-east Spain

Javier Calatrava and David Martínez-Granados

Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agronómica, Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, Cartagena, Spain

Contact: Javier Calatrava | Email: j.calatrava@upct.es


This article assesses the economic impact of implementing a public buyback of groundwater rights to eliminate non-renewable pumping  in the Murcia Plateau of the Spanish Segura basin, home of some of  the most depleted aquifers in Europe. We find  that, regardless of the  policy instrument applied, stopping non-renewable extraction would  severely hit the agricultural sector. The buyback of rights would not  prevent this impact but the cost of reducing extraction would be  borne by the government  instead of farmers, making it a potentially  more successful alternative. However, the estimated cost for the  public budget is  very large and probably unaffordable.

Pages: 977–998

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2018.1504756 (Open Access)

Research Article

Micro-irrigation development in India: an analysis of distributional pattern and potential correlates

A. Suresha, Aditya K.S.a, Girish Jhaa and Suresh Palb

aDivision of Agricultural Economics, ICAR–Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR-IARI), New Delhi, India; bICAR National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (ICAR-NIAP), New Delhi, India

Contact: A. Suresh | Email: sureshcswri@gmail.com


In India, of late, micro-irrigation has received considerable policy focus. However, as of 2017, only about 10% of the potential area is under micro-irrigation. The present study analyzes the pattern and equity issues of distribution of micro-irrigation in India and identifies the potential correlates. The regression analysis reveals that the stage of groundwater development and agro-climatic differences significantly influence the spread of micro-irrigation. The relatively low spread of micro-irrigation in states with overexploited groundwater needs attention. Overall, the study points to the need to revamp the current micro-irrigation development programmes, which focus excessively on subsidy.

Pages: 999–1014


Research Article

India’s National Water Policy: ‘feel good’ document, nothing more

Chetan Pandita,b,c,d and Asit K. Biswas e,f

aWater Planning and Projects, Central Water Commission (CWC), India; bGovernment of Goa, India; cGovernment of Chhatisgarh, India; dPune, India; eThird World Centre for Water Management, Atizapan, Mexico; fSchool of Engineering, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK

Contact:  Asit K. Biswas | Email: prof.asi.k.biswas@gmail.com


Three versions of the National Water Policy (NWP) have failed to make any perceptible difference in improving water management in India. The excuse that water is a state subject and thus central government cannot do much is not valid. States have always been a party to the formulation of the NWP. They have the freedom tomodify the NWP to suit their individual requirements. Many states have adopted a state water policy. Even such state-level policies have failed to make any significant impact in improving their water management practices. Neither the NWP nor the state water policies have made any impact on practice. Reasons for the NWP basically being a paper exercise are many, including lofty drafting and policy prescriptions that are divorced from reality; lack of courage at the Water Ministry to take a firm stand on any of the provisions at either the drafting or the implementation stages; the practice of keeping specialists away from policies; and the dominance of generalists who have neither a demonstrable understanding of the complexities of the water sector nor a long-term commitment to it.

Pages: 1015–1028


Research Article

Governing the water commons in China: from historical oriental despotism to contemporary fragmented hydraulic state

Yan Zhang

Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; School of Development Studies, Yunnan University, Kunming, China

Contact: Yan Zhang | Email: yz333@cam.ac.uk


This paper explores water commons and its governance in China. Neither oriental despotism nor fragmented hydraulic state accurately describes water governance in China. Instead, a combined approach of Grand Union governance logic and polycentric policy-making analysis is proposed. The paper argues that the concept of the commons in China is dual-dimensional, with a vertical dimension of public authority and a horizontal dimension of sharing-in-common; that power structures have often been flexible, adaptive, polycentric and highly experimental; and that, correctly applied, this approach also strives to serve the common good, ensuring positive impacts for shared prosperity, while mitigating negative impacts.

Pages: 1029–1047