Visualizing aquifers: sustainable water use in the Atacama Desert and beyond

  • Research & Development
  • Jan 2017 - Jun 2019
  • Donor: European Commission - Research Executive Agency
  • Donor Programme: Research Programme of the European Commission as of 2014
Latin America and the Caribbean
Latin America and the Caribbean

Billions of people rely for their everyday existence on aquifers. The invisibility of these waters, however, poses formidable challenges for those who rely on them: locating, measuring and controlling aquifers is complex and precarious, yet of utmost importance for human survival in many parts of the world. The overall aim of the proposed project is to explore the vital connections between humans and aquifers in everyday life. Building on trans-disciplinary studies that consider water as the contested nexus of social and political affairs, this project explores groundwater as both mediating and generating diverse ‘groundwater practices’: as an invisible resource, groundwater requires visualization; as an underground supply, it calls for innovative extractive techniques; as a finite good, groundwater needs to be regulated and controlled; and as a practical everyday resource, it sustains irrigation, sanitation, and human consumption. Through ethnographic fieldwork in Atacama Desert of Northern Chile, this project will develop an analytical framework to understand how social relations are affected by various groundwater practices. The proposed research will explore such practices with a focus on the effects that the visualization of aquifers has on socio-economic and eco-political inequalities.