CFP: Water Management in the Americas

Laura Martin Agudelo's picture
Call for Papers
April 1, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Environmental History / Studies, Geography, Government and Public Service, Maritime History / Studies, Social Sciences


IdeAs – Ideas of the Americasjournal of the Institute of the Americas

Guest editors: Vincent Dubreuil and François-Michel Le Tourneau

Deadline for contribution abstracts:  April 1, 2019

Deadline for full texts:  September 1, 2019

Publication: February-March 2020

The question of water and water management is a crucial challenge in the Americas, especially in the wake of global climate change. The uncertainties about the evolution of rainfall and the rising demand for water from growing cities or agricultural areas make the water equation (i.e. matching supply and demand) ever more complex to solve. Excesses in shortages but also in abundance have resulted in the multiplication of “water crises” over the last two decades, justifying the growing attention to that topic from social sciences researchers.

The challenges lie first in the disparity of the resource, with extreme contrasts between arid areas like the Atacama or Mohave deserts and hyper-humid regions like the Amazon or the Pacific side of the Andes mountains. But the management of the resource is also problematic. Intense predation has been a plight in several regions like Texas or Chile, as well as, even if through a more community-based approach, in Andean oases or the Brazilian North-East.

Water is key to the development of a number of activities. Agriculture, of course, irrigated or not, but also energy production or industry, whose share of water consumption is significant. Domestic consumption is increasingly urban, whose locations are often distant from supply sources. Water has therefore become a commodity to be transported, while at the same time remaining, itself, a vector of transportation. In all cases it is being used more intensely, like in the fluvial routes of the Saint Laurent or Parana/Paraguay rivers. 

In the Americas as in other parts of the world, water is an integral part of social relationships (or the lack thereof), either through the diversity of water related social practices or through the representations that societies have of this element and how they integrate it into their development strategies. In this sense, the history of the society-water relationship converges with their global history. Since the Tennessee Valley Authority, a number of big infrastructure projects have integrated water management into their core. Water transpositions have become common (Central Arizona project, São Francisco river transposition, and many smaller ones), and huge barrages even more so (on the Colorado, the Columbia, the Xingu, the Parana, etc.). Large scale project logics have prevailed for a long time, but are more and more challenged today because of their environmental cost. Also, the impacts on entire watersheds are being increasingly considered, posing daunting challenges when crossing international borders. The same is also increasingly true with the management of great aquifers. The continental dimension of such geographical objects implies negotiations or domination relationships between neighboring countries, opening a fascinating window to the contemporary geopolitical stage.

Water-related stakes, conflicts or representations are also present at the local scale, especially in American metropolises. First, many are witnessing a dramatic degradation of their resources. After decades of turning their backs on their lakes or rivers, many of them, starting in the US, are trying to reclaim them through active municipal policies. But the situation remains tense in most Latin American megacities where sewage is chronically undersized, river pollution critical and the exposure of low-income population to flooding risks extremely high. The diversity of situations across the continent allows for a grasp of the concepts of vulnerability and resilience at the scale of those territories.

Such local and global issues and their diversity are what the February-March 2020 issue of the IdeAs - Ideas of the Americas journal would like to approach. The environmental dimension will be the backbone of this issue, either in its physical dimension (how do we quantify the risks and resources?) or in the approach of water-related social or political issues, taking into account the complex relationships between stakeholders at different scales. We welcome contributions from all disciplines within the spectrum of social sciences, from history, political science, international relations, economy to geography, sociology and anthropology, particularly regarding North America.


A single document (word or pdf) including

- a working title and an abstract (250 to 300 words)

- a brief biography (no more than 100 words) with email address


 should be sent to :,, and


by April 1, 2019


Notification of  decisions will follow shortly afterwards. Full texts (about 7,000 words) will need to be submitted by September 1, 2019. After a double blind peer-review process, selected articles will be published in the February-March 2020 issue of IdeAs.


Contact Info: 

Laura Martin Agudelo

+ 33 (0) 1 71 22 99 80

Editorial Secretary - IdeAs (journal of the Institute of the Americas, France)