Legacies and new obstacles for an inclusive water governance: the California experience

Palabras clave: water governance, water inequalities, public participation, environmental justice


Scholars from different political approaches argue that governance may harmonize antagonistic interests. However, governance’s concept is still imprecise, and it has been used in a contradictory way. This paper’s aim is to discuss governance limitations to overcome obstacles regarding land monopolization and water ‘commoditization’. Through California experience, this paper shows how historic legacies have reinforced changes in commodity market, narrowing the margin of maneuver of vulnerable households. Inclusive governance may be the best shot to reduce inequalities regarding water access, but it is not a magical solution. There is a long way to follow and political fights still must happen.


La descarga de datos todavía no está disponible.

Biografía del autor/a

Alberto de Oliveira

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. Brasil. E-mail: alberto@ippur.ufrj.br. ORCID: 0000-0002-2920-3958


AIKEN, C. S. (1987). “Race as a factor in municipal underbounding”. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 77(4), 564–579.
BAKKER, K. J. (2003). “From public to private to… mutual? Restructuring water supply governance in England and Wales”. Geoforum, 34(3), 359–374.
BARLOW, M. & CLARKE, T (2002). “Blue gold: The battle against corporate theft of the world’s water”. Available in http://www.carbonell-law.org/NuevoDiseno/ozonomio/revista3/Bibliografia/BlueGold.pdf. Accessed in 26/10/2021
BLUEFIELD RESEARCH LLC. (2013). “Private water utilities: Global rankings & company strategies”. Report made by the Bluefield analysts. Available in http://www.bluefieldresearch.com/research/report-private-water-utilities-global-rankings-company-strategies/. Accessed in 26/10/2021
CANO, W. (2012). “A desindustrialização no Brasil”. Economia e Sociedade, 21(spe), 831–851. https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0104-06182012000400006
CARTER, L. G. (2009). “Reaping riches in a wretched region: Subsidized industrial farming and its link to perpetual poverty”. Golden Gate U. Envtl. L.J., 3, 5.
CASTRO, J. E. (2007). “Water governance in the twentieth-first century”. Ambiente & sociedade, 10(2), 97–118.
DIAS, N. (2016). “O sistema Cantareira e a crise da água em São Paulo: falta de transparência, um problema que persiste”. Natália Dias; coordenação Mariana Tamari. São Paulo, Artigo 19. Available in http://artigo19.org/blog/2016/06/28/relatorio-avalia-o-que-mudou-na-transparencia-dos-orgaos-responsaveis-pela-crise-hidrica-em-sao-paulo-2/. Accessed in 26/10/2021
DORE, M. H., KUSHNER, J., & ZUMER, K. (2004). “Privatization of water in the UK and France—What can we learn?” Utilities Policy, 12(1), 41–50.
FLEGAL, C.; RICE, S.; MANN, J. & TRAN, J. (2013). “California unincorporated: Mapping disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley”. PolicyLink. Available in https://www.policylink.org/sites/default/files/CA%20UNINCORPORATED_FINAL.pdf. Accessed in 26/10/2021
GALIK, A. J. (2015). “Water poverty in California’s rural disadvantaged communities. Pepperdine” Paper 91. Available in
http://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/sturesearch/91. Accessed in 26/10/2021
GEISLER, C. C. (1995). “Land and poverty in the United States: Insights and oversights”. Land Economics, 16–34
GOPALAKRISHNAN, C. (1973). “The doctrine of prior appropriation and its impact on water development”. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 32(1), 61–72
GRIFFIN, K., KHAN, A. R., & ICKOWITZ, A. (2002). “Poverty and the distribution of land”. Journal of Agrarian Change, 2(3), 279–330.
GUEREÑA, A. (2016). “Unearthed: Land, power and inequality in Latin America”. Oxfam International. Available in https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp-land-power-inequality-latin-america-301116-en.pdf. Accessed in 26/10/2021
HANAK, E. & LUND, J. (2011). “Floods, droughts, and lawsuits: A brief history of California’s water policy”. In Managing California’s Water: From conflict to reconciliation. San Francisco CA, Public Policy Institute of California.
HUFFAKER, R., WHITTLESEY, N., & HAMILTON, J. R. (2000). “The role of prior appropriation in allocating water resources into the 21st century”. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 16(2), 265–273.
HUNDLEY, N. (2001). “The great thirst: Californians and water, a history”. Berkeley CA, University of California Press.
JOHNSON, J. H., PARNELL, A., JOYNER, A. M., CHRISTMAN, C. J., & MARSH, B. (2004). “Racial apartheid in a small North Carolina town”. Review of Black Political Economy, 31(4), 89.
LEWIS, J. A. (1980). “Landownership in the United States, 1978”. Agricultural Information Bulletin-US Dept. of Agriculture (USA).
MUKHIJA, V., & MASON, D. R. (2013). “Reluctant cities, colonias and municipal underbounding in the US: Can cities be convinced to annex poor enclaves?” Urban Studies, 50(14), 2959–2975.
NULL, S. E., BARTOLOMEO, E., LUND, J. R., & HANAK, E. (2012). “Managing California’s Water: Insights from interviews with water policy experts”. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science, 10(4).
PANNU, C. (2012). “Drinking Water and Exclusion: A Case Study from California’s Central Valley”. California Law Review, 223–268.
PICCIOTTO, R. (1995). “Putting institutional economics to work: from participation to governance” (Vol. 304). World Bank Publications.
PISANI, D. J. (2003). “Federal reclamation and the American West in the twentieth century”. Agricultural History, 391–419.
POMPONET, A. S. (2009). “100 anos de DNOCS: Marchas e contramarchas da convivência com as secas”. Conjunto & Planejamento, 162, 58–65.
SANTOS, A. C., DE CEBALLOS, B. S. O., & DE SOUSA, C. M. (2013). “Políticas públicas de água e participação no semiárido: Limites e tensões no P1MC”. Revista Eletrônica de Gestão e Tecnologias Ambientais, 1(1), 145–161.
SWYNGEDOUW, E. (2006). “Power, water and money: Exploring the nexus” (No. HDOCPA-2006-14). Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
WITTFOGEL, K. A. (1957). “Oriental despotism: A comparative study of total power” (6th ed.). New Heaven and London,Yale University Press Inc.
Otras fuentes
LITTLE HOOVER COMMISSION. (2010). “Managing for change: Modernizing California’s water governance”. Sacramento, CA: Available in http://www.lhc.ca.gov/studies/201/report201.html. Accessed in 26/10/2021
U.S. CONGRESS. (1982). “Letter sent from Ray Danison (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) in 1982, July 30”, U.S. Congressional Record, page 16622. Available in https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CRECB-1982-pt12/pdf/GPO-CRECB-1982-pt12-6.pdf. Accessed in 26/10/2021
Cómo citar
de Oliveira , A. (2021). Legacies and new obstacles for an inclusive water governance: the California experience. Espacio Abierto, 30(4), 213-226. Recuperado a partir de https://produccioncientificaluz.org/index.php/espacio/article/view/37335