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Modern Water Ethics: Implications for Shared Governance

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Abstract:

It has been suggested that water and social values were divorced in modernity. This paper argues otherwise. First, it demonstrates the historical link between ethics and politics using the case of American water governance. It engages theories regarding state-centric water planning under 'high modernism' and the claim that water was seen as a neutral resource that could be objectively governed. By developing an alternate view from the writings of early American water leaders, J.W. Powell and W.J. McGee, the paper offers a way to understand the project of state-centred governance without the claim that water falls to the latter half of a society/nature dualism. Second, the paper reviews how the emerging 'water ethics' discourse helps organise both the ethical and legal norms at play within contemporary political shifts towards decentralised governance. The review identifies how McGee's early influence may warrant more attention, both in terms of water governance and environmental ethics. The paper concludes by arguing that, given the arguments presented, success in decentralising water governance turns not only on political considerations, but also on fairly ordering normative claims as part of fostering and extending the reach of coordinated water governance.

Keywords: ethics; governance; modernity; water

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3197/096327113X13648087563746

Publication date: June 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2014) of 1.056.
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