Volume 38, Issue 1

January 2022
Special Issue on Water Justice: Pathways for Voice, Truth and Reconciliation

Introduction »

Bending towards water justice: pathways for truth, reconciliation, inclusion and transformative actions

R. Quentin Grafton, Safa Fanaian, Gabriela Sacco & Luis Liberman

Research Article

Law versus justice: the Strategic Aboriginal Water Reserve in the Northern Territory, Australia

William Nikolakisa and R. Quentin Graftonb

aFaculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada; bCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Contact: William Nikolakis | Email: william.nikolakis@ubc.ca


Using a policy tracing approach, we analyse the legislating of the Strategic Aboriginal Water Reserve (SAWR) in the Northern Territory, Australia. The SAWR is a share of the consumptive pool allocated to eligible Indigenous landowners in water plan areas, providing water resources for future economic development. Drawing on parliamentary and policy sources to reveal competing interests and ideologies, and the challenges of codifying water rights, this study finds that legislating water rights alone is insufficient to achieve water justice – water justice measures must respond to power imbalances and inequities by empowering people with the capabilities to implement their rights.

Pages: 11-29

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2021.1882406 (Open Access)

Research Article

Water colonialism and Indigenous water justice in south-eastern Australia

Lana D. Hartwiga,b, Sue Jacksona,b, Francis Markhamc and Natalie Osborneb

aAustralian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia; bSchool of Environment & Science, Griffith University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia; cCentre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Contact: Lana D. Hartwig | Email: lana.hartwig@griffith.edu.au


Political theorists argue that justice for cultural groups must account for socioeconomic distribution, political representation and cultural recognition. Combining this tripartite justice framework with settler colonial theory, we analyse novel data sets relating to Aboriginal peoples’ water experiences in south-eastern Australia. We construe persistent injustices as ‘water colonialism’, showing that the development of Australia’s water resources has so far delivered little economic benefit to Aboriginal peoples, who remain marginalized from decision-making. We argue that justice theories need to encompass a fourth dimension – the vitally important socio-ecological realm – if they are to serve as conceptual resources for advancing Indigenous peoples’ rights and needs.

Pages: 30-63

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2020.1868980 (Open Access)

Research Article

Perceptions of Tanzanian smallholder irrigators on impact pathways between water equity and socioeconomic inequalities

A. Maneroa and S. A. Wheelerb

aCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia; bCentre for Global Food and Resources, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Contact: A. Manero | Email: ana.manero@anu.edu.au


Irrigation is promoted as a critical strategy for rural welfare, yet fundamental questions prevail on the linkages between water, equity and inequality. Applying mixed-methods, this study investigates the impact pathways whereby water inequities are associated with socioeconomic inequalities within two Tanzanian smallholder irrigation schemes. According to irrigators’ perceptions, greater water equity would benefit the poor through improved working conditions, productivity, reliability and reduced risk. Quantitative analyses corroborate that water-dissatisfied irrigators suffered from lower yields and higher unproductive land, investment losses and yield gaps. Education, empowerment and strong governance are proposed as possible avenues towards greater water equity and inclusive growth.

Pages: 80–107


Research Article

Informality and water justice: community perspectives on water issues in Cape Town’s low-income neighbourhoods

Johan Enqvista,b, Gina Ziervogela,c, Luke Metelerkampd, John van Bredae, Ntombikayise Dondif, Thabo Lusithig, Apiwe Mdunyelwag, Zinzi Mgwigwif, Mpumelelo Mhlalisif, Siya Myezag, Gciniwe Nomelaf, Ann Octoberf, Welekazi Ranganaf and Maggie Yalabif

aAfrican Climate & Development Initiative, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa; bStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; cDepartment of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa; dEnvironmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa; eCentre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; fWestern Cape Water Caucus (WCWC), Cape Town, South Africa; gEnvironmental Monitoring Group, Cape Town, South Africa

Contact: Johan Enqvist | Email: johan.enqvist@su.se


Cape Town’s water injustices are entrenched by the mismatch between government interventions and the lived realities in many informal settlements and other low-income areas. This transdisciplinary study draws on over 300 stories from such communities, showing overwhelming frustration with the municipality’s inability to address leaking pipes, faulty bills and poor sanitation. Cape Town’s interventions typically rely on technical solutions that tend to ignore or even exacerbate the complex social problems on the ground. Water justice requires attention be paid to the range of everyday realities that exist in the spectrum from formal to informal settlements.

Pages: 108–129

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2020.1841605 (Open Access)

Research Article

Impounded rivers, compounded injustice: contesting the social impacts of hydraulic development in Laos

David J. H. Blakea and Keith Barneyb

aIndependent Researcher, Taunton, UK; bResources Environment and Development Group, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Contact: David J. H. Blake | Email: djhblake@yahoo.co.uk


Laos has rapidly expanded its hydraulic infrastructure, creating profound environmental, economic and social ruptures. We combine frameworks of environmental justice with political ecology to examine the multiple expressions of water injustice evident in three hydropower project case studies involving resettlement. We find that livelihood restoration measures have not ameliorated, but reproduced underlying problems of poverty, inequity, exclusion and coercive expressions of social injustice. These are viewed as the structural outcomes of political choices. We conclude that there is little potential for a water justice paradigm in Laos without significant reforms to the national frameworks for water governance and human rights.

Pages: 130-151


Research Article

Murky waters: the impact of privatizing water use on environmental degradation and the exclusion of local communities in the Caribbean

Johana Herrera Arangoa,b, Juan Antonio Senent-De Frutosc and Elías Helo Molinad

aDoctorate Program in Inclusive and Sustainable Development, Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Seville, Spain; bSchool of Rural and Environmental Studies, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia; cDepartment of Humanities and Philosophy, Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Seville, Spain; dObservatorio de Territorios Étnicos y Campesinos, School of Rural and Environmental Studies, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia

Contact: Johana Herrera Arango | Email: herrera.johana@javeriana.edu.co


The effects of climate change on tropical ecosystems cannot be interpreted based on physical variables alone. Severe water shortages and deterioration of ecosystems are most acute in places where historical inequalities occur, such as unequal access to land and other goods and rights necessary for the livelihood of marginalized populations. This paper explores environmental transformations and their repercussions on water resources based on spatial analysis and fieldwork carried out in the Colombian Caribbean. We have engaged with peasant and Afro-descendant populations who have been excluded from water use and now face problems in sustaining their way of life.

Pages: 152-172

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2021.1931052 (Open Access)

Research Article

Water justice and Europe’s Right2Water movement

Jerry van den Bergea, Jeroen Vosa and Rutgerd Boelensa,b,c,d

aDepartment Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands; bCEDLA Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; cDepartment of Social Sciences, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Peru; dFaculty of Agricultural Sciences, Universidad Central del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador

Contact: Jerry van den Berge | Email: jerryvandenberge22@gmail.com


In 2013 the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘Right2Water’ collected 1.9 million signatures across Europe against water privatization. It became the first ever successful ECI and has built a Europe-wide movement. Right2Water sought for Europe’s legal enforcement of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWS) as a strategic political tool to challenge European Union market policies. The paper examines the ECI from a social movement perspective. Although the European Commission subscribed that ‘water is a public good, not a commodity’, its implementation is subject to continuing politics and socio-political struggle, with growing urgency in times of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

Pages: 173–191

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2021.1898347 (Open Access)