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Wageningen Universiteit (2008)

Shedding the waters : institutional change and water control in the Lerma-Chapala Basin, Mexico

Wester, P.

Titre : Shedding the waters : institutional change and water control in the Lerma-Chapala Basin, Mexico

Auteur : Wester, P.

Université de soutenance : Wageningen Universiteit

Grade : PhD thesis 2008

Résumé partiel
Water resources development has led to water overexploitation in many river basins around the world. This is clearly the case in the Lerma-Chapala Basin in central Mexico, where excessive surface water use nearly resulted in the drying up of Lake Chapala, one of the world’s largest shallow lakes. It is also a basin in which many of the policies prescribed in international water debates were pioneered. This thesis investigates the histories and relationships between water overexploitation, water reforms and institutional transformations in the Lerma-Chapala Basin. In particular it focuses on the role of the hydraulic bureaucracy (hydrocracy) in the creation of water overexploitation and in the articulation of water reforms. It shows how water reforms have reordered modes of water control and transformed domains of water governance in the Lerma-Chapala Basin, but have not led to a reduction of water overexploitation. Three main themes are developed in the thesis, namely 1) the links between the hydraulic mission, hydrocracies and river basin closure, 2) water reforms and decentralization, and 3) water allocation and river basin politics.

This thesis conceives of water reforms as sociopolitical processes and analyses the historical, political and bureaucratic processes that engender and sustain water reforms. Such an analysis, which centers on policy actors and policy articulation, clarifies why water reforms are effectuated and how alliances are negotiated through which reforms gather momentum, or are made to fail. Grounded in the notion that water resources management is politically contested and that policies embody the governing ambitions of bureaucracies, this thesis argues that water reforms are not “inevitable”. Rather, they are produced by particular constellations and have particular effects, such as reordering modes of water control. To understand the making of water overexploitation and the articulation of water reforms it is necessary to analyze the histories of the relationships between water users, water technologies and the government agencies mediating water control. The spatial and material dimensions of hydrosocial-networks form an integral part of these histories. Such a sociotechnical perspective on water reforms is developed in this thesis to analyze changes in water governance in the Lerma-Chapala Basin.

Mots clés : water management / resource management / water use / water use efficiency / water policy / institutions / mexico / politics / administration

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