Water Ethics: A Values Approach to Solving the Water Crisis (Paperback) book cover

Water Ethics

A Values Approach to Solving the Water Crisis

By David Groenfeldt


216 pages

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Paperback: 9780415626453
pub: 2013-09-10
Hardback: 9780415626446
pub: 2013-09-09
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203102664
pub: 2013-10-01
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This book introduces the idea that ethics are an intrinsic dimension of any water policy, program, or practice, and that understanding what ethics are being acted out in water policies is fundamental to an understanding of water resource management. Thus in controversies or conflicts over water resource allocation and use, an examination of ethics can help clarify the positions of conflicting parties as preparation for constructive negotiations.

The author shows the benefits of exposing tacit values and motivations and subjecting these to explicit public scrutiny where the values themselves can be debated. The aim of such a process is to create the proverbial 'level playing field', where values favoring environmental sustainability are considered in relation to values favoring short-term exploitation for quick economic stimulus (the current problem) or quick protection from water disasters (through infrastructure which science suggests is not sustainable).

The book shows how new technologies, such as drip irrigation, or governance structures, such as river basin organizations are neither "good" nor "bad" in their own right, but can serve a range of interests which are guided by ethics. A new ethic of coexistence and synergies with nature is possible, but ultimately depends not on science, law, or finances but on the values we choose to adopt. The book includes a wide range of case studies from countries including Australia, India, Philippines, South Africa and USA. These cover various contexts including water for agriculture, urban, domestic and industrial use, the rights of indigenous people and river, watershed and ecosystem management.


"…this is a welcome addition to a literature that needs to grow, and it is clearly worth reading."Helen Ingram, in Water Alternatives (2014), Volume 7, Issue 1.

"This remarkable work explores the normative value foundations of water management… Summing Up: Essential. Natural resource and environmental studies collections, upper-division undergraduate through professional."B.F. Hope, California State University, in Choice (Current Reviews for Academic Libraries), March 2014.

"David Groenfeldt, founder and Director of the Water-Culture Institute in New Mexico and an anthropologist with experience in irrigation projects in Asia, has written what is to my knowledge the first single-authored book on water ethics… an important contribution" - Dr Rafael Ziegler, University of Greifswald, Germany, in Environmental Values

Table of Contents

Preface – Why Water Ethics?

1. Introduction to Water Ethics

2. Manipulating Rivers

3. Water for Agriculture: The Ethics of Irrigation

4. Ethics in Urban and Domestic Water Use

5. Water for Industry: What is Responsible Use?

6. The Ethics of Water Governance

7. Indigenous Water Ethics

8. Towards a New Water Ethic

9. Conclusions


About the Author

David Groenfeldt is the founder and Director of the Water-Culture Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, USA. He has previously worked on irrigation research at the International Water Management Institute (Sri Lanka), the design and management of irrigation projects for the World Bank, and rural development consulting for various international agencies. He is also the co-editor of "Global Water Ethics" (Routledge, 2017).

About the Series

Earthscan Water Text

This series includes a wide range of inter-disciplinary approaches to the study of water and water resources, integrating perspectives from both social and natural sciences. It includes main and supplementary textbooks, and is aimed at the growing number of students taking advanced undergraduate and graduate level courses on water-related topics. Authors or editors of potential new titles should contact Hannah Ferguson, Editor (Hannah.Ferguson@tandf.co.uk).

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
NATURE / Ecosystems & Habitats / Rivers
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Hydrology
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Environmental / Water Supply