Center for Environmental Policy and Administration

State Restructuring and the Scale Politics of Rural Water Governance in Bolivia

Author:Thomas Perreault
Date: February 2005
Publication:Environment and Planning A, 37(2), pp. 263-284

Recent attempts to grant private concessions to water in Bolivia raise questions regarding the effects of the state's neoliberal restructuring on environmental governance. Like other Latin American states, Bolivia has enacted sweeping neoliberal reforms during the past two decades, including privatization of public sector industries, reduction of state services, and administrative decentralization. These reforms have been accompanied by constitutional reforms that recognized certain resource and political rights on the part of Bolivia's indigenous and campesino peoples. This paper examines the reregulation and rescaling of rural water management in Bolivia, and associated processes of mobilization on the part of peasant irrigators aimed at countering state reforms. Although traditional resource rights of peasant irrigators are strengthened by cultural aspects of constitutional reforms, rural livelihoods are undermined by economic liberalization. The paper examines the implications and contradictions of neoliberal reforms for rural water management in highland Bolivia. These processes are illustrated through a brief analysis of current organizational efforts on the part of peasant irrigators.


Thomas Perreault
Center for Environmental Policy and Administration
The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Revised 06/14/2006 13:08:33