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Water blues in climate change: The role of institutions in water conflicts and the challenges presented by climate change
Rojas, A., B. Reyes, L. Magzul and H.L. Morales 2006 English

This paper explores the significance of studying water conflicts and the way institutions deal with them, as an important link to understanding community vulnerabilities to climate change. The study of the role of institutions in the resolution or management of (or failure to resolve or manage) water conflicts provides insights to understanding possible and actual institutional learning and needed adaptations to confront climate-change-induced water insecurities. The authors argue that the key aspect revealed by the examination of conflicts is the realization that power differentials in conflict resolution within communities and between communities and political organizations involved in water governance, may have hampered the adaptive capacity of all stakeholders. The institutions whose role is more relevant here are those involved in water governance. Their role in water conflicts and what they and the communities involved learn from conflicts provides the focus of the study. We also argue that conflict resolution can be adaptive or destructive. Paradoxically, in some conflicts elements of both types of outcomes can coexist and there will be winners and losers, who still may derive important lessons from the experience of conflict. In the case of water conflicts, the communities more directly exposed to hazardous conditions may experience internal strife and fragmentation and/or enter into conflict with some of the institutions involved in water governance. Institutions involved in water governance are those which most directly influence decision making and in the case of water governance, these are the government organizations responsible for water management and allocation, and the ample range of water users and beneficiaries and other civil society organizations that influence water use. Water conflicts are considered here within the wider stream of studies of environmental conflict resolution. Since water is an essential element to sustain life, many of the difficulties we encounter in maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and the wise use of natural resources are reproduced in the case of water, where interests are difficult to reconcile, particularly under conditions of water insecurity. Thus, we will often refer to water conflicts as a type of environmental conflict.

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