Water-conservation policies in perspective: insights from a Q-method study in Salta, Argentina

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Narratives and discourses on issues such as water management and other complex social–ecological systems respond partly to people's worldviews or social perspectives. Knowledge of these perspectives might help increase the rate of success of specific initiatives related to water conservation and could be an important tool to improve water governance. A study performed in the city of Salta, Argentina, revealed the existence of four social perspectives on issues related to water management. Perspectives were obtained with Q methodology by interviewing 29 local stakeholders. Participants sorted 68 statements organized around four themes (service provider; water rights; public participation; water availability) according to their degree of agreement or disagreement. The findings support our contention that there are clear links between social perspectives and the rate of success of some water policies implemented by the local water utility in the past 15 years, in particular the promotion and use of household water meters and awareness campaigns launched to reduce water consumption. We show that the limited success of these initiatives was partly due to ignorance or disregard of social perspectives on water management.

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