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The Paradox of Water Rights Advocacy in the United States: The Social Construction of the Right to Water from Below

California water activists, UUSC, Environmental Justice program
Wednesday, November 10, 2021, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

The Department of Legal Studies cordially invites you to our Brown Bag Seminar on  The Paradox of Water Rights Advocacy in the United States: The Social Construction of the Right to Water from Below.


The seminar will take place on November 10th, 2021, at 1:00pm CET via Zoom.

Prof. Inga Winkler will discuss her ongoing research on the right to water in the US.


Communities across the United States face a widespread water crisis including risks of contamination, rate increases, shut-offs for non-payment, and dilapidating infrastructure. Against this background, a right to water movement has emerged which has found its strength in coalition-building and collectivity. Activists demand change using the framing of “water as a human right” constructing the right to water from below. Based on more than 25 semi-structured interviews with water advocates and activists, the authors explores how movement participants used the human rights framework to advocate for clean and affordable water for all. We used political opportunity theory and conceptions of government “openness” and “closedness” to examine when and how advocates decided to use confrontational and cooperative approaches. We identified a push and pull of different strategies in three key spaces: in the courts, on the streets, and at the Capitols. Advocates used adversarial approaches including protests and civil disobedience, reliance on human rights mechanisms, and to a more limited extent litigation simultaneously with cooperative approaches such as the development of concrete proposals and plans for ensuring water affordability and engaging with legislators. This adaptiveness, persistence and ability to identify opportunities likely explains the movement’s initial successes in addressing the water crisis.


Zoom link details:

Meeting ID: 968 4549 3050

Passcode: 219001 


Photo credit by UUSC, Environmental Justice program, No change to the photo has been made.