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University of Michigan (2022)

Whose water crisis ? How government drought responses widen inequality

David, Olivia

Titre : Whose water crisis ? How government drought responses widen inequality

Auteur : David, Olivia

Etablissement de soutenance : University of Michigan

Grade : Master of Science 2022

Recent severe droughts in California, USA and the Western Cape Province, South Africa attracted global attention as water scarcity challenged cities, rural communities, agricultural industries, and ecosystems in varied ways. Governments responded to these conditions by setting and ultimately achieving water conservation targets, and scholarship evaluating the causes and consequences of both droughts from diverse perspectives emerged. This study extends existing scholarship by comparing drought responses in terms of their effects on water (in)justice, or social inequality as evinced in relationships to water access networks. In so doing, I explain how and why the drought responses materialized and manifested in widened inequalities, using information from previous research on the droughts and drought responses, policy documents, and interviews with key informants in each region about their perspectives on the droughts and the ensuing policy responses. I analyzed these data using mechanism-based process tracing methods. In both cases, causal mechanisms linking government responses to widened inequalities include what I identify as values-reinforcement mechanisms and strategic communication mechanisms. The common presence of these mechanisms reveals the resilience of dominant social values and constructions, even in response to socio-environmental challenges. The particular importance of interlinked policy- and household-level decisions around groundwater resources during drought events also emerged through comparative analysis of the cases. To conclude, I suggest practical implications based on these insights and areas for future research, highlighting droughts as consequential policy sites for advancing social and environmental justice.


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Page publiée le 16 mars 2023