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date: 31 October 2020

(p. ix) Preface

(p. ix) Preface

Water is life. Yet water is inherently political. Due to its unpredictability in supply and quality, water is difficult to manage and govern, especially when shared by different users with different interests. As cities expand, urban populations are increasingly in competition with farmers and industry for access to water. Water is also the lifeblood of ecosystems; global environmental change, particularly climate change, is further intensifying competition among rival uses and users.

This volume thus places water front and center in the world of politics and policy. Water has emerged as a critical twenty-first century challenge, forcing policymakers to adjudicate between different uses, to address global water poverty, and to devise policies, laws, and institutions to manage water both domestically and globally in ways that are equitable, fair, and just. Inevitably, how these decisions are made tends to be highly contested and political.

To address the underlying challenges of governing water, we brought together a collection of authors with innovative perspectives on water. We have chosen to organize the chapters around macro-themes rather than around area-based case studies. We asked contributing authors to speak to their own areas of expertise through a critical lens but also that the chapters be forward-looking, focusing on emerging challenges, controversies, and policy dilemmas in their fields. Our introductory chapter examines the multiple meanings of water and lays out some of the larger historical moments and trajectories in water policy and politics.

This volume would not have been possible without the unwavering enthusiasm of the authors who contributed to this project. We are extremely grateful to them for their patience as we went back and forth on drafts. We are deeply thankful to the wonderful staff at Oxford University Press who helped shepherd this volume through from concept to publication and in particular Alexcee Bechthold, Angela Chnapko, Princess Ikatekit, and Tithi Jana. We also want to acknowledge Anne Kantel, Goueun Lee, and Abby Lindsay for their assistance. (p. x)