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Limits of groundwater governance induced by the collective action in California US and Guanajuato Mexico

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Gabriela Angeles-Serrano
Boris Marañón Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas IIE-UNAM
AbstractSince 1980`s, strategies to increase social participation and the empowerment of the groups involved in water management have been encouraged, mostly in developing countries but also in those developed. Meanwhile, some academic circles began to disapprove the recent progress in water policy. One reason is because the new politics provides too much power to some groups (i.e. organized farmers or municipalities) even when they may misunderstand the scientific and technical limits of the resource and/or have a reduced vision of the environmental crisis. So, as the capacity of decision of them is increased, they may refuse to change their practices to access water, even when the more recent information might indicate that a permanent degradation is still affecting water resources. This last could be more probable when the groundwater is the most important resource because of the natural laws that govern the differences in their quantity and quality are more complex of assimilating by the society, that those that govern the surface water. Although a regulatory framework to use rationally and to maintain shared water sources requires of interdisciplinary and coordinated approaches in order to achieve enough support and a consensus between different social agents. Then, to reach legitimacy in water politics will not be sufficient while big asymmetries of power persist in the vulnerable territories. Additionally the reduction of the responsibilities of the State, as the maximum authority in the position of allocating the water and at the same time of protecting to people and the environment, it is allowing to the most powerful groups of avoiding future restrictions and this leaves completely defenseless to the less powerful agents, when they have in fact, much less possibilities to access water. Consequently with the new policies, conflicts could come up still and the water governance could be threatened at long or even middle term. Under the previous context, the objective of this article is to determine to what extension the progress in policies that incorporate new agents is increasing the cost of the access to more powerless groups in California US and Guanajuato Mexico. The methodology includes 1) a revision of the advances in social participation that were motivated because of the modifications in water policy during the last twenty-five years, 2) the identification of the persistence of power groups as one of the main limitations for the advance through more comprehensive models of participation and 3) with the information of points 1 and 2 the main gaps in water policy advances will be shown. It is concluded that the power of some agents, could become one of the main factors responsible of challenging the preservation of a healthy environment and a more equitable allocation of available resources.
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