Liquid Relations: Contested Water Rights and Legal Complexity

By Dik Roth; Rutgerd Boelens et al. | Go to book overview

7
Special Law
Recognition and Denial of Diversity
in Andean Water Control

RUTGERD BOELENS
INGO GENTES
ARMANDO GUEVARA GIL
PATRICIA URTEAGA

In the Andean region, norms and practices of peasant and indigenous communities play a key role in local water management. In irrigation, for example, users' groups and organizations have developed—sometimes over centuries— irrigation management practices that incorporate elements from Andean, colonial, and postcolonial water traditions, and contemporary norms and technologies. Both older irrigation systems and new ones, whether “communal,” “state-owned,” or “private,” feature their own specific practices and norms. Therefore, each irrigation system operates by a different set of rules of play.

At the same time, despite the great diversity of particular sociolegal repertoires, local management does not operate in isolation from the national context. “Peasant,” “indigenous,” and “local” law is interwoven with official-law norms, rules, and organizational forms. Although local community authorities are often the first level of oversight and coordination to materialize water rights and resolve water conflicts, nonetheless people also turn to public rules and authorities representing official law. The existence of normative plurality in water management systems in Andean countries is not a question but an inarguable fact, grounded in the interaction of different normative repertoires for the regulation of water within a given sociopolitical and physical-technical setting (Beccar et al. 2002).

In order to understand the foundations of water management in Andean communities, therefore, there is a need to recognize this pluralism of water rights repertoires and decipher its empirical manifestations. Apart from this analytical dimension of recognition, there is the question of how to deal with

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