Infrastructure and water: Community management of aqueducts in San Bernardo (Colombia)

The settlement of populations in the various territories has been conditioned by the possibility of access to safe drinking water. This scarce resource, depending on the territory, has been obtained in multiple ways leading to a technification of access and distribution modalities. Around these processes, various social organisations and political-legal entities emerge that deploy a determined infrastructure for their control. In spite of the fact that, a priori, it is a public resource and abundantly available in many regions, we find that political devices are established that materialise through the infrastructures, from which it is mediated with the different populations and territorial contexts for the distribution of water. The technification of these processes and the development of a “public” supply made available through the deployment of a state administration leads to the removal of other “community” social organisations that autonomously manage access to and distribution of water.

The consequences of the transformation of the water infrastructure and the conflicts arising from its control have led to numerous anthropological investigations that point to aspects such as the notion of ownership of water, the claim of rights, social organisation and technical-political management around water infrastructures, among others. It should be noted that, because of its very condition, water is not a static and predictable resource, but is conditioned by the effects of climate change and the deployment of large infrastructures to generate other resources, such as hydroelectric plants, which can affect territories located thousands of kilometres away. Among these researches is the following article on the community aqueducts of San Bernardo (Cundinamarca, Colombia) by Camila Méndez published in Sur Desarrollo Journal:

Méndez, C. (2021) “Agua potable para todo el mundo”. Revista Sur Desarrollo.