The tragedy of an urban common: the case of small water service operators in Cochabamba

By Juan E. Cabrera, Jacques Teller

Our study focuses on community-based management of water in Cochabamba (Bolivia). We are more specifically interested in the territorial and social effects of the production of water by a proliferation of small private operators acting in an uncoordinated framework, without any supervision by public operators. The results of our study do not question the value of water as a common good. They question how the creation of synergies in community-based water management can be penalized by poorly or unframed self-production logics. We are stressing the importance of a shared water management associating community-based operators and public administrations, considering, following Ostrom, that collaboration between these two types of actors is essential to ensure a collective and sustainable exploitation of the resource. We also highlight urban fragmentation processes, conflicts between actors and the unsustainable exploitation of water related to the proliferation of small local operators.

  • urban commons
  • small scale local organizations
  • water services
  • spatial justice
  • Cochabamba
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