Navigating Power and Politics in Water and Sanitation Planning

Water and sanitation services are increasingly inundated fields of both study and practice. From multi-level policy-makers, transnational corporations, international financial institutions, and specialized technical experts to advocacy groups, small-scale service providers, civil society organizations, and end-users, the portfolio of stakeholder interests in these basic services is a veritable mosaic and some would say puzzle. This course aims to inform and prepare students to navigate the explicit and implicit power dynamics at play among (though also at times excluding) such stakeholders in decision-making processes that govern the planning and delivery of water and sanitation systems. Several polemical questions tend to mark the political and economic governance of water and sanitation systems, however cases often reveal hybrid forms of organization, regulation, financing, and physical delivery which complicate and challenge simplified answers. The course thus emphasizes the importance for planners to move beyond the limited dimensions of supply and demand studies and to gain fluency in the multiplicative political-economic and social factors driving choices in wat-san systems planning. By tracing the physical planning of wat-san systems in mostly urban and peri-urban areas, students will follow the trajectory of decisions that shape the accessibility, affordability, and adequacy of water and sanitation services, particularly in vulnerable neighborhoods. In-depth, globally comparative readings will be used to fully investigate the intricate choices that expose basic services in water and sanitation as a misnomer.