I found it fascinating, and it got me thinking about various incarnations of the hydrologic cycle.
Here's the abstract:
This paper examines the historical claims made in support of the hydrosocial cycle. In particular, it considers how arguments advancing the hydrosocial cycle make historical claims regarding modernist conceptions of what water is (i.e. H2O) and its fit with society. The paper gives special emphasis to the society/nature dualism and to the notion of agency as key sites of contest in arguments regarding the hydrosocial cycle. It finds that, while several versions of the hydrosocial cycle seek to advance a political ecology more sensitive to non-human actions, these same accounts often do not address the robust account of non-human agency in the historical record. Evidence is presented regarding water’s agency amongst late 19th and early 20th century architects of key water management norms in the United States. This evidence troubles accounts of the hydrosocial cycle that critique the US experience and suggests new directions for rethinking the role of historical and institutional norms in water policy.
Perhaps you're wondering what the hydrosocial cycle is, although I suspect you can guess. Here's a good definition from the abstract of a paper by Jamie Linton and Jessica Budds, 'The Hydrosocial Cycle: Defining and Mobilizing a Relational-Dialectical Approach to Water':
The hydrosocial cycle is based on the concept of the hydrologic cycle, but modifies it in important ways. While the hydrologic cycle has the effect of separating water from its social context, the hydrosocial cycle deliberately attends to water’s social and political nature.
Makes sense, right? We hydrologists and engineers are wont to draw hydrologic cycles with stocks and flows of water but no humans or much of anything else (okay, maybe a tree to indicate transpiration). Jeremy indicates this in his introduction:
It is an interesting exercise to have students draw, or at least imagine, the hydrological cycle. The results are usually fairly uniform: arrows linking evaporation, transpiration, groundwater percolation and precipitation amongst oceans, land and freshwater rivers and lakes. Sometimes the odd glacier makes the cut. Often, the cycle proceeds in one, big, circular pattern. And almost without fail, the cycle is devoid of people, cities, other species, or life in general. This shared mental model provides a point of departure for asking whether the hydrological cycle really exists 'out there' as a natural backdrop for human activity: doesn’t water flow otherwise? Isn’t it entangled with biogeochemical processes, other species, and the practices that different societies have developed to support alternate forms of life? If so, how should we conceptualise the multitude of forces acting upon water?
The closest experience I've had with a hydrosocial-type cycle is the 'Postmodern Hydrologic Cycle', drawn by friend and colleague Kate Ely, hydrogeologist for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which I posted on 20 December 2008:
I use Kate's cycle in some of my classes. But after reading Jeremy's paper, I think I'll use it more often, and perhaps add some more 'social' features. I do like Kate's dollar signs and will keep them; to me, they speak volumes.
"The relationship between water and society has come to the forefront of critical inquiry in recent years, attracting significant scholarly and popular interest. As the state hydraulic paradigm gives way to modes of water governance, there is a need to recognize, reflect and represent water’s broader social dimensions." - Jamie Linton and Jessica Budds