Water Security at the AAG in San Francisco

The paper and panel line-up for the “Water Security? Critical Geographical Engagements” at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in San Francisco covers a range of scholars and topics.  Jessica Budds (Water Security Centre, East Anglia), Alex Loftus (King’s College), Vanessa Empinotti (UF do ABC, Brazil), and I co-organized sessions scheduled on Thursday, 3/31/2016, from 1:20 PM – 3:00 PM in Union Square 22, Hilton Hotel, 4th Floor.

Water security is a term that has gained significantly in popularity, appealing to a wide range of social and natural scientists who are interested in “securing” water for humans and ecosystems, amid concerns about increasing climatic and political economic pressures on water resources.  However, the term tends to be used very loosely, and/or is interpreted very differently across stakeholders, sectors and disciplines.  Cook and Bakker (2012) have demonstrated the very different analytical approaches, measurement methods and indices, and scales of analysis proposed to assess water security, while Loftus (2014) argues that many applications of the concept understate or neglect the politics that underpin inequalities in access to water.  These sessions will build on critical geographical engagements with “security”, in order to think through water (in)security and its implications both conceptually and empirically.

Paper Session 1

Afton Clarke-Sather – University of Delaware, The Politics of Water Security in Global Green and Virtual Water Discourses

Anne-Marie Debbane – San Diego State University,The Common Sense of Water Security

Alex Loftus – King’s College London  and Hug March – Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Financialising Desalination: Rethinking the returns of big infrastructure

Vanessa Empinotti – Federal University of ABC, May Water Security challenge institutions? The São Paulo megacity drought case

Jessica Budds – University of East Anglia (Water Security Centre), Water security and water markets: The paradox of responses to scarcity in Chile

Paper Session 2

Trevor Birkenholtz – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Surplus and Security: An Analysis of India’s National River-linking Project

Wendy Jepson, Texas A&M University, Water security, justice, and technology

Robert Patrick, PhD – University of Saskatchewa, Water (in)security and First Nations: Canada’s colonial hydro-politic

Emma S. Norman – Northwest Indian College, The problem is blowing in the wind: Water (in)security, scalar politics, and environmental justice of atmosphere-surface exchangeable pollutants

Panel Session

Chair: Alex Loftus – King’s College London
Patricia Gober – Arizona State University
Leila Harris – University of British Columbia
Kathleen Mary O’Reilly – Texas A&M University
Wendy Elizabeth Jepson – Texas A&M University
Kathryn Furlong – Université De Montréal
Eric P. Perramond – Colorado College
Katie Meehan – University of Oregon

Questions that the papers and panel address are:

  • What are the tensions between applied approaches to water security and perspectives from critical human geography?
  • What does “water security” set out to secure, how, and at what scale(s)?
  • What political work does “water security” do, and what agendas does it serve?
  • How do we know what “secure water” is?
  • What epistemologies/methods are used to approach water security, and to what extent do they reinforce, justify, or disrupt existing water governance regimes?
  • What are the synergies and tensions between water security and other similar paradigms that could be broadly seen as seeking to achieve secure water, such as water governance, water justice, and the human right to water?