Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology

Waterworks: Infrastructure and Expertise in Peru

Fresh water accounts for less than three per cent of the earth's water supply and, due to climate change, water sources disappear at a worrying speed. One of the 21st century's biggest challenges is to ensure water to the world's inhabitants, why it is important to improve water management and achieve water equality, especially in the many developing countries that are particularly affected by climate change and water shortage. By exploring how environmental and political reforms in Peru not only exacerbate existing conflicts but also lead to new forms of cooperation, this research aims at providing knowledge about how the world's water shortage can be managed.

The study is carried out in the framework of the research project New Forms of Andean Water Cooperation: Negotiating Water Values and Water Rights in Peru´s Highlands in collaboration with researchers at the University of Gothenburg and funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR) (2015-2018). This project explores how different state and private actors participate in new forms of cooperation to manage how water is made available, distributed and used under current climatic, political and social circumstances.

The study examines how experts who work in the water sector in Peru produce apply their knowledge and organize their daily work. Ethnographically, the study focuses on the so-called Majes Siguas Special Project in the Arequipa region of southern Peru. This is a large infrastructure project that collects water in dams in the highlands (4000 m a s l) and leads it through tunnels and canals down to the arid lands near the coast to enable and expand intensive farming there. The project was initiated and built in the 1970s and 80s, and is now under expansion. For the purposes of the study, I have in the years 2016 and 2017 through ethnographic fieldwork followed the experts (engineers, architects, economists, lawyers, sociologists, chemists, environmental scientists) working on operating the existing infrastructure and planning and implementing the expansion. The study is now in the analytical phase and draws on anthropological research in several areas; water, infrastructure; knowledge; organization, to analyze the ethnographic material.

Contact:
Susann Baez Ullberg, PhD
Associate Senior Lecturer
Uppsala University, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
Box 631, 751 26 Uppsala
susann.baez.ullberg@antro.uu.se