Emma S. Norman

in Geography

ISBN: 9780199874002
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:

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Water is intrinsically multifaceted and multidisciplinary. Within geography, it spans both human and physical dimensions and is present in almost every subdiscipline of geography (e.g., political geography, feminist geography, urban geography). This article focuses primarily on human geography approaches to water, which includes topics such as management, meaning, power, and social relations. The topics focus largely on cultural, political, social, and economic issues pertaining to water. These interests, in turn, share boundaries with historians and other scholars outside geography, such as political science, history, and sociology. Water is a tremendous example of the reflexive nature between humans and the natural environment—the ongoing interplay between adaptation and change. Access to reliable freshwater sources is a basic human need, the availability of which has great influence on shaping cultures and influencing settlement patterns. However, universal access to clean drinking water has proven to be a difficult goal to meet, with more than one billion people estimated to have inadequate access to clean drinking water. In some cases, lack of water inspires innovative technology for communities to meet human needs (for example, complex irrigation systems and more-recent processes of salt reduction and reverse osmosis). However, these innovations are often limited to access to capital wealth. Weather patterns also affect human settlement and influence many dimensions of the development of cultures, economies, and religions. Adaptive frameworks (such as integrated water resource management and water security) have been developed to help understand, mitigate, and prepare for changing conditions associated with changing weather patterns and global climate change. In addition, issues of scale are inherently linked to water—because water is simultaneously a local resource as well as part of a global system. Scalar framings directly influence decisions about who governs water and how. The creation of boundaries—and associated administrative units—affects the governance of this shared resource (e.g., watershed boundaries, state boundaries, municipal boundaries) through complex historical-social processes. Framing issues related to water as hybrid, hydro-social processes, or as part of a network, helps to understand the complex dynamics of power, economies, and social processes associated with human-environment relations.

Article.  10423 words. 

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography ; Human Geography

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