Project Start: Towards the end of 2018
Project Timeframe: Three years

Project Leadership:The project leader is Margreet Zwarteveen, from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Other principal investigators are Frances Cleaver, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, Ben Crow, University of California, Santa Cruz, United States, Marcel Kuper, CIRAD, Montpellier, France, Lowe Börjeson, Stockholm University, and Seema Kulkarni, Society for Promoting Participative Eco-system management, Pune, India. For WISE Futures, Dr. Hans C. Komakech will be involved in the Tanzanian component of the research, together with researchers from Sweden and the UK.

WISE Futures will be a partner in the project “Transformations to Groundwater Sustainability: joint learnings from human-groundwater interactions”, funded by the Belmont Forum and NORFACE under the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) programme.

Project Description

Billions of people around the world rely for their everyday existence on groundwater. Its invisibility, however, makes groundwater notoriously difficult to govern, also complicating efforts to avoid depletion or pollution. This project sets out to comparatively study promising grass-roots initiatives of people organizing around groundwater in places where pressures on the resource are particularly acute (India, Algeria, Morocco, USA, Chile, Peru, Tanzania). As these often challenge conventional wisdom, the project’s hypothesis is that these initiatives contain creative insights about ways of dealing with the intrinsic tensions that characterize groundwater governance: between individual and collective interests and between short-term gains and longer-term sustainability.

Focusing on groundwater practices – of knowing, accessing and sharing – we combine qualitative ethnographic methods with hydrogeological and engineering insights to explore the knowledges, technologies and institutions that characterize these initiatives. Our aim is to enunciate and normatively assess their logic and functioning in view of tracing overlaps or patterns that allow them to serve as more generic models for transformations to groundwater sustainability. This effort is inspired by theorizations of water as simultaneously social and natural, builds on recent critical scholarship on institutions, and has a particular sensitivity to how the distribution and use of groundwater is mediated by technologies.

For more information, please visit the NORFACE website