The hydrosocial cycle in rapidly urbanizing watersheds

Abstract

Water is the essential resource of the 21st century where innovative water management strategies are needed to improve water security. This paper examines three case studies that exemplify the global water crisis, situated in rapidly urbanizing watersheds: Nairobi River Basin, Kenya; Citarum River Basin, Indonesia; and Addis Ababa River Basin, Ethiopia. Each of these watersheds are implementing large-scale water management strategies inclusive of local communities and regional governments to address water quality and waste management issues. The hydrosocial cycle (Linton, 2010) provides a framework to investigate the social, technical and physical aspects of water flows. Using the hydrosocial cycle as an organizing framework, these watersheds are examined to highlight how water security underpins water justice. The issues of gender and inequity are often overlooked in larger policy, development, and infrastructure discussions where technical requirements, restoration management, and engineering solutions obscure power inequities. Projects are compared to assess the implementation of the hydrosocial cycle through a discussion of social power and structure, technology and infrastructure, and the materiality of water in each location. This comparison reveals a dependence on large-scale technical projects with limited community engagement, and a need for science-based river restoration management. Recommendations are provided to improve and address holistic water management.

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Acknowledgements

This research was made possible by the US Global Water Partnership. The author recognizes the numerous individuals who have participated and implemented these projects in Kenya, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. The author appreciates comments received from two anonymous reviewers. This manuscript reflects the views of the author.

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Correspondence to Melinda Laituri.

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Author Biography

Dr Melinda Laituri received her Ph.D from the University of Arizona, USA, in geography in 1993. She received her MA from California State University, Chico, in geography in 1985. She earned her BA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1979.

She is a professor of geography in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University and is the Director of the Geospatial Centroid at CSU that provides support for geospatial research and teaching across the university. She conducts research on geospatial applications related to water resources, disaster management, and urban areas in the Global South. She works with indigenous communities around the world on participatory mapping and natural resource management.

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Laituri, M. The hydrosocial cycle in rapidly urbanizing watersheds. Front. Earth Sci. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11707-020-0823-3

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Keywords

  • hydrosocial cycle
  • urban watersheds
  • water security
  • Citarum River Basin
  • Addis Ababa Basin
  • Nairobi River Basin