The University of Arizona

Border water culture in theory and practice: political behavior on the Mexico-U.S. border

Carmen Maganda


This articles examines water politics and the creation of a "transborder water culture" along the western end of the Mexico-U.S. border. In global debates over water, some observers see the need to construct water "cultures" that reinforce conservation strategies, as well as transnational political cooperation. This article discusses events related to the distribution of water in the bi-national Colorado River watershed from 20032010. The article argues that a fundamental change has occurred in the concept of water culture along that border, from an idea of political culture defined as community norms that promote transborder cooperation in the strategies of water distribution, to an idea of culture as rationality that serves as a filter through which pass the political interests of individuals. This change has elevated the role played by local leaders in the process of decision-making about water distribution. An analysis of water culture in the Mexico-US borderlands must differentiate between general "binational political cultures", and specific "institutional cultures."

Key Words: Mexico-U.S. border, transborder water culture, political culture, Colorado River watershed

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