New article by L Rodina

Lucy Rodina recently published a new paper on the ‘human right to water’, drawing on her case study research in Khayelitsha, South Africa. The article is published in Geoforum, and can be accessed at

Rodina, L. (2016). Human right to water in Khayelitsha, South Africa – Lessons from a ‘lived experiences’ perspective. Geoforum, 72: 58-66.


New article by L Rodina & L Harris on water service provision and citizenship

Lucy Rodina and Leila Harris recently published an article on the relationship between urban water service infrastructures and narratives of the state and citizenship.

The full text version of this article is freely available on the Water Alternatives website:

Rodina, L. and Harris, L. (2016). Water services, lived citizenship, and notions of the state in marginalised urban spaces: The case of Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa. Water Alternatives 9(2): 336-355.

ABSTRACT: In this paper we argue that in South Africa the state is understood and narrated in multiple ways, notably differentiated by interactions with service provision infrastructure and the ongoing housing formalisation process. We trace various contested narratives of the state and of citizenship that emerge from interactions with urban water service infrastructures. In effect, the housing formalisation process rolls out through specific physical infrastructures, including, but not limited to, water services (pipes, taps, water meters). These infrastructures bring with them particular logics and expectations that contribute to a sense of enfranchisement and associated benefits to some residents, while others continue to experience inadequate services, and linked exclusions. More specifically, we learn that residents who have received newly built homes replacing shack dwellings in the process of formalisation more often narrate the state as legitimate, stemming from the government role as service provider. Somewhat surprisingly, these residents at times also suggest compliance with obligations and expectations for payment for water and responsible water consumption. In contrast, shack dwellers more often characterise the state as uncooperative and neglectful, accenting state failure to incorporate alternative views of what constitutes appropriate services. With an interest in political ecologies of the state and water services infrastructures, this paper traces the dynamic processes through which states and citizenship are mutually and relationally understood, and dynamically evolving. As such, the analysis offers insights for ongoing state-society negotiations in relation to changing infrastructure access in a transitioning democracy.

New article by R Simms and colleagues on collaborative watershed governance

Rosie Simms and colleagues recently published an article on collaborative watershed governance with First Nations in BC, based on research conducted with the Lower Similkameen Indian Band in 2013. The full text can be accessed via Geoforum:

The article draws on the research Rosie conducted for her Masters thesis, which can be accessed here.

Simms, R., Harris, L., Joe, N., and Bakker, K. (2016). Navigating the tensions in collaborative watershed governance: Water governance and indigenous communities in British Columbia, Canada. Geoforum, 73: 6-16.

First Nations in British Columbia (BC), Canada, have historically been—and largely continue to be—excluded from colonial governments’ decision-making and management frameworks for fresh water. However, in light of recent legal and legislative changes, and also changes in water governance and policy, there is growing emphasis in scholarship and among legal, policy and advocacy communities on shifting water governance away from a centralized single authority towards an approach that is watershed-based, collaborative, and involves First Nations as central to decision-making processes. Drawing on community-based research, interviews with First Nations natural resource staff and community members, and document review, the paper analyzes the tensions in collaborative water governance, by identifying First Nations’ concerns within the current water governance system and exploring how a move towards collaborative watershed governance may serve to either address, or further entrench, these concerns. This paper concludes with recommendations for collaborative water governance frameworks which are specifically focused on British Columbia, but which have relevance to broader debates over Indigenous water governance.

Community Based Research and Water Workshop, May 16th

The Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES–UBC), the Program on Water Governance (UBC) and the UNESCO Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education (UVic) are pleased to invite you to the workshop Community Based Research and Water on May 16 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

The event will consist of two different sessions combining theory and practice of community-based research (CBR). In the morning session (9:00 am – 12:00 pm), several panels and roundtables will present and discuss relevant issues regarding CBR theory and practice, with a special focus on water. On the afternoon (1:00 pm – 3:00 pm), two interactive workshops will be offered to learn and explore different research methodologies and approaches to CBR.

To register and for a more detailed description of the workshop, please click here.

We hope this event, and others to follow, will continue to build on our UBC Water Ways workshop held last month.

Participatory videos on water and sanitation

PoWG post-doctoral fellow Crystal Tremblay recently completed the participatory video component of a community-based research project on water and sanitation in Teshie, Ghana and Khayelitsha, South Africa.  Both videos are now final and available on YouTube. ‘Water is Life’ ( documents the situation of water and sanitation in Teshie, Accra and ‘It’s Your Chance’ ( is a co-production with the Iliso Care Society in Khyaletisha based on youth interviews on water and sanitation concerns in the community (Site C, Khayletisha).

More information on the participatory videos from Teshie and Khayelitsha and the community-based research project can be found on Crystal’s website

Upcoming Event: UBC Water Workshop

Water Ways: Understanding the Past, Navigating the Future

March 9-10, 2016
Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre

This workshop is intended to bring together leading water experts from UBC and the global academe to share knowledge and advance emerging ideas. The workshop aims to connect the diverse community of water researchers at UBC across multiple disciplines.

In doing so, the workshop and the post-workshop strategy session will aim to generate a practical roadmap for building a cohesive and comprehensive water research cluster.

For more information about the workshop, including topics to be covered and keynote speakers, please visit our website:

Workshop Registration

WORKSHOP REGISTRATION NOW OPEN! We invite the UBC community of staff, faculty, and students involved in water research to attend the workshop.

Register Now

This workshop is being developed in partnership with Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and UBC100.

New Book: Leaky Governance by K. Furlong

Dr Kathryn Furlong, Assistant Professor of Geography at the Université de Montréal and Program on Water Governance alumnus, has just published her new book titled ‘Leaky Governance’ with UBC Press. Congratulations Kathryn!

About the Book

Municipalities face important water supply challenges. These are widely attributed to local government politicization. Neoliberal reforms have only exacerbated the strained relationships between water utilities and local governments. In response, organizational reform to increase utility autonomy through alternative service delivery (ASD) has been promoted around the world. For its proponents, ASD offers independence from municipal government without relinquishing control over the utility; for its detractors, it is privatization under another name. Yet the organizational barriers offered by ASD are at best leaky. Deeply interdependent, both water management and municipal governance must be strengthened to meet contemporary water supply needs.

Leaky Governance explores ASD’s relation to neoliberalization, water supply, and local governance. Drawing on economic geography and political ecology, Kathryn Furlong examines organizational models for water supply and how they are affected by shifting governance and institutional environments. Her analysis of Ontario paints a complex picture of both ASD and municipal government.

Leaky Governance addresses urgent and topical questions in urban governance and water management, tackling increasingly pressing environmental, political, and social issues surrounding water supply and their relationship to urban governance and economics, as well as to broader issues in public policy.

For further information and a time-limited discount, see the attached flyer.

New funded graduate student position: Indigenous Water Co-Governance Research Project

We are excited to announce a new Program on Water Governance funded graduate student position in the Indigenous Water Co-Governance Research Project.

The Program on Water Governance is currently conducting a Canadian governmentfunded research study in partnership with the First Nations University of Canada, Northwest Indian College, and a British Columbia First Nations community. Our project identifies and analyzes pathways whereby Indigenous Law and Indigenous Water CoGovernance might enable more sustainable, equitable water management. Our research collective is committed to Community-Based and decolonizing research methods in the spirit of reciprocal learning and engagement.

The project provides funding for a graduate student, starting in September 2016. The student will be working under the supervision of Dr. Karen Bakker.

The deadline for application is January 4th (Department of Geography) or January 18th (Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability).

For more information, please consult the position advertisement.


New thesis by Sameer Shah, MSc

Congratulations to PoWG member Sameer Shah for successfully completing his MSc in Resource Management and Environmental Studies!

Sameer was supervised by Dr. Leila Harris and Dr. Hisham Zerriffi, and conducted his fieldwork under the guidance of Dr. Leonora Angeles. Sameer’s research focused on the intersection of farming livelihoods, changes in water access, and adaptation in the Philippines. His thesis is titled “Water variability, livelihoods, and adaptation: a case study from the Angat River Basin (Philippines)” and is available ONLINE.

Sameer is now commencing his PhD at IRES, UBC, where he will continue to work with the PoWG team.

Thesis Abstract: In the Global South, agrarian households face stressors to smallholder agriculture – a primary livelihood for many. One stressor increasingly documented is the re-allocation of surface irrigation for domestic and industrial uses. This is concerning because the timely, adequate, and predictable provision of irrigation was designed to enhance crop production and protect smallholders from hydro-climatic variation. Chapter 2 of this thesis examines a case from the Angat River Basin (Philippines) where a systematic set of rules have restructured reservoir governance to privilege domestic water use in Metro Manila over irrigation for regional rice farming. A review of multiple secondary datasets and an analysis of household surveys (n = 124) and interviews (n = 70) in a rice-farming municipality (Bustos) reveals that restructured reservoir governance arrangements now interact with existing effects of climatic variation to undermine the intended benefits of irrigation. Based on the nature of irrigation service change, Chapter 3 argues that on- and off-farm efficiency  measures alone are insufficient to protect households from risks of irrigation insecurity. Moreover, access to water alternatives is limited and increasingly uncertain. This suggests complementary and alternative (CA) livelihood activities are increasingly important as risk mitigation measures given irrigation service change and broader social-ecological stressors. All too often however, standardized livelihood activities promoted by governments encounter resistance, rejection, or are rendered irrelevant. One reason why proposed activities fail is because they do not align or overlap with certain CA activities that households are able and willing to engage in (termed here as “decision spaces”). Chapter 3 provides an integrative framework that allows policy-makers to better understand how contextual factors – from land-use regulations to cultural aspirations – constrain or widen household “decision spaces.” The framework is applied to Bustos providing direction for adaptation policy to i) promote CA livelihood activities that are both relevant and palatable to households; and to ii) challenge certain constraints to enlarge the set of activities household could engage in. Overall, this thesis represents an analysis of irrigation re-allocation as one facet of social ecological change in the Angat River Basin and provides measures for accommodating change effects through substantive recommendations for adaptation policy.

Introducing our new summer research assistants!

This summer EDGES & the PoWG are fortunate to have three new research assistants joining us to work on water research. Welcome to Jesse, Andrew and Iesha!

Jesse Way: JWay bio pic

Jesse is a recent graduate of the Natural Resources Conservation program within the Faculty of Forestry (BSc, Hons. Co-op). He is now completing a Certificate in Watershed Management though the Faculty of Land and Food Systems as well as the Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture through the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm.

Jesse has experience working in the mining industry focusing on projects associated with water monitoring and mine reclamation. He has also worked as a research assistant in a Stream & Riparian Ecology Lab where he worked on projects investigating human impacts on fresh water ecosystems through forestry, agriculture and Run-of-River hydroelectric dams. He is particularly interested in the relationship between food and water and how human consumption patterns and methods of food production use and impact the natural environment including water resources and the people that depend on them.

Iesha Yue Wan Zhao Yuan:│α╖σ6.28-7.5 320 (3)

Iesha is an undergraduate student in Bio-resource/Environmental Engineering at McGill university, where she worked on a bio-char research project and in the water-soil quality lab. She is currently assisting Dr.Harris’ research team on several water governance projects, including an analysis of submissions on the BC Water Sustainability Act. Iesha comes from a region where water is scarce and therefore precious and contentious; she chose to study environmental engineering with a focus on water resources in order to help alleviate the water shortage problem in her home region.

Andrew K. MacKinnon:andrew M

Andrew is an undergraduate student majoring in Environmental Science: Land, Air and Water accompanied with a minor in Economics at the University of British Columbia.  He is currently completing various tasks for Dr. Leila Harris and her work with the Program on Water Governance. He acquired the technical and practical skills needed for sustainable solutions to the global water crisis throughout his university coursework. Andrew is the president of the undergraduate environmental science student association and works towards collaborating with like-minded students to propose new ideas aimed at educating communities on the importance of sustainability and resource management.  His interests include understanding the interrelationships of socio-economic and environmental hardships felt across the world, specifically in developing countries.  His recent academic achievements include an independent study on the diurnal vertical migration of zooplankton in the Pacific Ocean and completion of various environmental and social impact assessments.