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Water Governance and Emerging Challenges for Rigid Normative and Institutional Structures: an Analysis from the Chilean Case

Luz Karime Sánchez Galvis, Àlex Boso Gaspar, René Montalba Navarro and Arturo Vallejos-Romero

In recent years there has been a decrease in water availability mainly associated to climate change and a strong increase in the demand for this resource. As a consequence, the water sector is facing increasing pressures at the social, economic, environmental and political levels. This new scenario generates high levels of uncertainty that increase tensions over the access to water. The diverse valuations and uses given by the multiple stakeholders interested in this resource make traditional management and governance models based on the theory of “command and control” inadequate. This paper theoretically analyzes different conceptions and models of water governance, their characteristics, levels and scales of operation, identifying potentials and limitations to face complex and dynamic contexts. At the empirical level the Chilean case is explored since there is a water market for this resource allocation. To develop the analytical framework on the concept of water governance, a compilation and selection (directed review of literature) of recent research on the subject was carried out by consulting scientific articles published in internationally recognized journals and with high impact in the area of social sciences, interdisciplinary and water resources. The results show that a rigid, centralized system with legislation that prioritizes private interests before public interests causes inequity in access to water and needs a change in its structure that allow it to face the new conditions of dynamic and complex systems. On the other hand, the concept of water governance must be addressed as a socio-ecological system and it is not pertinent to analyze the water system in isolation. The model of adaptive governance emerges as the most propitious to face changing conditions, although its implementation presents several challenges. Finally, some initiatives are shown at a local scale that are emerging in Chile and that stand out as an advance in the transition from a traditional governance model to an adaptive one.

Key words: Water Policy; Drinking Water; Water Distribution; Water Resources; Governance; Chile 

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