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This chapter examines the ongoing global struggle to supply potable drinking water to the world’s population. The chapter begins with a brief history of 20th century efforts to expand drinking water supply but argues that these efforts only resulted in partial successes. This was due to rapid demographic growth and to a dominant understanding of water scarcity as a technical problem to be solved through centralized engineering works. This paradigm is being challenged in the 21st century by an understanding of water as enmeshed in a hydrosocial cycle where social elements—including politics and economics—are intrinsic to the successful expansion of drinking water supply. Yet many issues remain, including (1) multiple kinds of water scarcity; (2) competition between different sectors; and (3) contestations surrounding cost recovery, commodification, and privatization. The chapter concludes with a discussion of water’s future governance. People are no longer waiting for drinking water supplies to expand but are contesting water’s meaning and engaging in participatory resistance to modes of water supply that undermine the human right to water.
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- Drinking Water