Water management and governance in Alberta

My graduate work at McGill focused on the evolution of water policy in southern Alberta, Canada. In my doctoral research at Western I expanded on that work to position the Alberta case in reference to U.S. water policy and the influence the American experience has come to have on global water governance. In many ways, Alberta offers a microcosm of water challenges elsewhere with: a large irrigation economy in the south that dominated the institutional path of early water legislation; a burgeoning energy sector in the north that requires large water inputs; urban/rural capacity challenges; indigenous contests (known in Canada as First Nations) over water rights, territorial claims and resource practices. All of these are compounded by Alberta’s land-locked status and both cyclical and abrupt climate shifts that affect water availability. It was in this context that, in 2007, the Alberta Water Council issued the call for a new water ethic.

The above projects spanned the period from western settlement through to today and provide a basis for work on three normative and political dynamics that make the Alberta case an excellent window into the political economy of modern liberalism: (1) the emergence of public space through the creation and practice of new concepts of territory, (2) the evolution of public governance propositions that form a narrative of the state as sovereign and self-constituted, and (3) the embedding of water management (and environmental governance more broadly) in participatory governance formats structured in reference to (1) & (2).


Several articles and chapters are in press or review from this work and links will be up as they become available (see below). They cover the Alberta case from various angles including political geography, transition management in social-technical systems, political theory and environmental philosophy. In addition to these literature specific articles, I’m planning a new monograph on the political economy of water in Alberta. This book will reinterpret Alberta’s water economy in reference to the narrative of the modern state and the entanglement of water with the norms of political liberalism.


Water management and the procedural turn: norms and transitions in Alberta. Water Resources Management.


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