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date: 19 February 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides an introduction to the Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy. The politics of water is shaped by several factors, including its critical role in life-sustaining processes, its challenging physical properties as a flowing and often unpredictable resource that declines to “sit still” for governance, and the tensions among its many different social meanings—valuable commodity, lynchpin of cultures, foundational symbol in the world’s major religions, and secular symbol of national progress and global human rights. The chapter sketches some of the main historical trajectories in water politics, shaped not only by local hydrologic and socioeconomic circumstances but also by powerful transnational political, economic, and ideational forces. The chapter also sketches the development of social-science scholarship on water, including clustered research on irrigation development, managing common property resources, transboundary water relations, environmental history, cultural studies of water, and climate-driven challenges of resilience and adaptive capacity.

Keywords: water politics, water policy, water history, water law, water governance, water infrastructure, water and culture

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