Water scarcity has been widely linked to political and economic instability. As new methods for water extraction, delivery, and management are explored and implemented, evaluating the efficacy and effectiveness of water governance structures becomes critical to preventing water stress. This project, which trains a graduate student in how to conduct rigorous, empirically-grounded scientific fieldwork, explores how water governance unfolds on the ground, through formal and informal means, under conditions of increasing resource scarcity and growing population sizes. The lessons this research produces can be of value in deepening understanding of similar situations, especially in economies where agriculture is irrigation-dependent and where water access is stressed between the demands of a large urban population and the demands of an extensive irrigation-dependent agricultural sector.

Maira Hayat, under the supervision of Dr. William Mazzarella of the University of Chicago, will explore water governance focusing on two locales: the drinking water market in an urban setting, and the public canal irrigation network in a village context. The research will take place in Pakistan, home to the world's largest contiguous irrigation network fed by the river Indus and its tributaries. Concentrated in the Punjab province, this network has roots in 19th century colonial policies aiming, in parallel, at increasing tax revenue from agricultural production, and 'settling' the region by converting the predominantly nomadic locals to sedentary agriculturalists. This research will deepen understanding of the relation between law and political economy; bureaucracies, markets and the intersection of knowledge and value regimes; and resource governance worldwide. It will contribute to analyses of law and economic life through charting the relation between economy and sovereignty, and contemporary water governance. This research will further understanding of the successes and failures of public irrigation, and enable policymakers to design better-informed policy, and help make policy less top-down at a time of extensive water-sector reform in many water-stressed contexts. This research combines fieldwork, interviews, focus groups, archival research, collection of oral histories, and legal textual analysis.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Jeffrey Mantz
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University of Chicago
United States
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