Transformations to Groundwater Sustainability: Joint Learnings from Human-groundwater Interactions, 2020-2023


The focus of the study was on groundwater practices, encompassing how people understood, accessed, and shared it. By employing qualitative ethnographic methods alongside hydrogeological and engineering insights, the researchers explored the knowledge, technologies, and institutions driving these initiatives. The ultimate goal was to articulate and evaluate their principles and functioning, identifying common patterns that could serve as generic models for achieving groundwater sustainability. The project took inspiration from the idea of water being both a social and natural phenomenon, building on critical scholarship about institutions and being particularly mindful of how technologies influenced groundwater distribution and use. The raw data cannot be shared, but compiled case studies of people's interactions with groundwater in a number of countries are available via related resources.Billions of people around the world rely for their everyday existence on groundwater. Its invisibility, however, makes groundwater notoriously difficult to govern, also complicating efforts to avoid depletion or pollution. This project sets out to comparatively study promising grass-roots initiatives of people organizing around groundwater in places where pressures on the resource are particularly acute (India, Algeria, Morocco, USA, Chile, Peru, Tanzania). As these often defy or challenge conventional wisdom, the project's hypothesis is that these initiatives contain creative insights about ways of dealing with the intrinsic tensions that characterize groundwater governance: between individual and collective interests and between short-term gains and longer-term sustainability. Focusing on groundwater practices - of knowing, accessing and sharing - we combine qualitative ethnographic methods with hydrogeological and engineering insights to explore the knowledges, technologies and institutions that characterize these initiatives. Our aim is to enunciate and normatively assess their logic and functioning in view of tracing overlaps or patterns that allow them to serve as more generic models for transformations to groundwater sustainability. This effort is inspired by theorizations of water as simultaneously social and natural, builds on recent critical scholarship on institutions, and has a particular sensitivity to how the distribution and use of groundwater is mediated by technologies. Our overall aim is to create global action-research collaborations to generate new inspirations for thinking about and dealing with interconnections and interdependencies between humans and groundwater

Data (both ethnographic and hydrological) was complied by the PhD and post doctoral researchers in various countries into narrative case studies. Key themes of the research project were used to bring different cases into analytical engagement. These included a focus on knowledges, technologies and institutions. Concepts relating to bricolage, circularity, institutions and technologies were drawn upon as analytical lenses for exploring and synthesising cross case learnings. Our data is presented on the website and the Open Education Resource in the form of text, photo and picture narratives.

Metadata Access
Creator Cleaver, F, Lancaster University
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2023
Funding Reference Economic and Social Research Council
Rights Frances Cleaver, Lancaster university; The Data Collection only consists of metadata and documentation as the data could not be archived due to legal, ethical or commercial constraints. For further information, please contact the contact person for this data collection.
OpenAccess true
Language English
Resource Type Numeric; Text; Still image; Audio; Video
Discipline Social Sciences
Spatial Coverage Algeria,Chile,India, Morocco,Peru,Tanzania, USA, Zimbabwe,; Algeria; Chile; India; Morocco; Tanzania; Virgin Islands (USA); Zimbabwe