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A Quest for Sustainable Water: A Study to Understand Namibia's Water Governance

David M.N Gosselin, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Namibia, like many arid regions around the world, houses an increasing population base that is steadily moving towards urban centers expecting enhanced water, health, and other services of modernity. The country’s freshwater supply is affected by a high evaporation rate, and the available arable land is slowly being reduced by desertification and climate change. According to the Namibian government’s 2010 Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, the demand for water will exceed supply by 2030. Political scientists are divided on whether water scarcity is a key determinant of violence, with some arguing instead that it encourages cooperation. Scholars researching the intrastate sources conflict highlight poverty, inequality, and weak central government institutions as key precursors to violence. Namibia has sustained international and domestic peace since becoming a state in 1990 and has done so within a constrained water envelope, prompting the question: How has Namibia been able to avoid violent conflict over water since Independence? Based on the proposition that water has a dual nature, a material (hard power) and a non-material (soft power) dimension, this research (1) qualitatively explores the perspectives and experiences of stakeholders and Namibia’s water-related history to gain a better understanding of how Namibia’s water governance structure is working, (2) uncovers meanings of sustainable water, (3) analyzes emergent themes from various stakeholders via the Dublin Principles (social, economic, and environmental), and (4) validates the study’s key findings by examining five basin management committees. Results from this study reveal a water narrative that reflects rationalist, structuralist, and constructivist interpretations of Namibia’s water governance efforts. Sustainable water is often pursued in a direct management approach that encourages a water-centric economic model based on agriculture, as well as an indirect approach focused on conservancies and wildlife tourism. This project provides a comprehensive perspective of how political choices reflect material utilitarian incentives and non-material persuasive dimensions.

Subject Area

Environmental management|Peace Studies|Water Resources Management|Sub Saharan Africa Studies|Sustainability

Recommended Citation

Gosselin, David M.N, "A Quest for Sustainable Water: A Study to Understand Namibia's Water Governance" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10982215.