Water Rules: Urbanization and the Transformation of Cochabamba’s Waterscape, 1879-2000


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation is a social and environmental history of urban water provision in Cochabamba, Bolivia that sets the 2000 “Water War” in the context of a century-long historical transformation of water and citizenship. Drawing on extensive research in Bolivia, the Netherlands, and the US, the study traces how efforts to provide city residents with drinking water remade the regional waterscape in three dimensions—the physical configuration of water sources and systems, the water tenure regime, and water access within the city. While recent scholarship blames water scarcity on unfair distribution within the city, this study argues that persistent water crisis in Cochabamba is rooted in an entrenched system of private water control within and especially outside the city. As the city grew, city dwellers’ efforts to gain water challenged private water ownership, but also produced new forms of inequality and exclusive control over water sources.