The paradox of water abundance in Mato Grosso, Brazil
While much effort has gone into studying the causes and consequences of water scarcity, the concept of water abundance has received considerably less attention in academic literature. Here, we aim to address this gap by providing a case study on the perceptions and political implications of water abundance in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Combining a political ecology perspective on contemporary water governance (empirically based on stakeholder interviews with members of the state’s water sector) with an overview of the environmental history of this hydrosocial territory, we argue, first, that water abundance has become a foundational element of Mato Grosso’s identity, situated in the wider context of natural resource abundance more generally and second, that water abundance today is a contested concept witnessing discursive struggles around its political implications and meaning. More specifically, there is a clash between the dominant conceptualisation of water abundance as a foundation for rich economic, ecological, social, and cultural values and benefits, often espoused by members of the political and economic elite, e.g., for marketing purposes, and a more critical but less widespread conceptualisation of water abundance as a source of carelessness, lack of awareness, and poor water governance, typically put forth by more informed technical staff of the public sector and civil society activists. By providing a distinct treatment and discussion of the concept of water abundance, our research has relevance for other water-rich regions beyond the immediate regional context.
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