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Water Infrastructure Always In-The-Making: Distributing Water and Authority through the Water Supply Network in Moamba, Mozambique

Silva-Novoa Sanchez, Luis Miguel, Kemerink-Seyoum, Jeltsje Sanne, Zwarteveen, Margreet
Water 2019 v.11 no.9
infrastructure, politics, water distribution, water supply, Mozambique
Using the concept of sociotechnical tinkering, this paper provides detailed empirical observations about the everyday practices of design, construction, operation, maintenance and use of a piped water supply network in a small town in Mozambique. We use these to show that the form, materiality, and functioning of this water infrastructure are constantly changing as result of interactions with its physical environment as well as in response to experimentation and improvisation by engineers, construction workers, operators and water users. Sociotechnical tinkering not just (re)distributes water, but also provides an avenue through which powers to control water flows can be wielded and exercised. In this sense, empirical attention to sociotechnical tinkering provides a useful entry-point for rethinking the distribution of control, authority and responsibility in water governance, or more broadly the relations between power and infrastructure. This, in turn, may yield new inspirations for identifying pragmatic possibilities for progressive water politics.