Contested Urban Waterscapes

Marcela López

Situated at the nexus between urban political ecology and urban geography, my research explores the intersections between access to water, citizenship and infrastructure networks within cities.

My current research project, Contested Urban Waterscapes: Water, Power and Urban Fragmentation, investigates the conflicts around access to water in Medellín, Colombia. I particularly explore how actors with different power relations, diversified interests and located in multiple geographical scales (e.g. household, community, the corporate sector and the state) deploy specific institutional, discursive and technological strategies to secure control over and access to water and how this determine particular environmental outcomes. Additionally, I pay special attention at how low-income communities develop particular socio-technical arrangements to deal with conditions of socially produced water scarcity, and how alternatives and solutions can be mobilized and implemented.

Besides contributing to theoretical and methodological debates, my work provides a platform for public dialog in which different sectors are brought together to discuss possible ways to improve access to water and to debate the potential role of corporate companies in supporting more sustainable water supply services.

Courses taught both in Colombia and Germany: Water; Infrastructures; Urban Flows; Political Ecology, Latin-American Cities.

I am a Visiting Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich for 2017-2018.

E-mail Marcela López

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Paisajes Hídricos Urbanos en Disputa: Agua, Poder y Fragmentación Urbana en Medellín, Colombia
Abstract: Este libro explora como el acceso al agua se ha convertido en terreno crucial en el que se consolidan y a la vez se resisten las lógicas de mercado. Con base en una investigación realizada en Medellín, Colombia, el presente estudio investiga la paradójica situación del acelerado surgimiento de Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) como multilatina…
López, M. 2016. Paisajes hídricos urbanos en disputa: Agua, poder y fragmentación urbana en Medellín, Colombia. Medellín: CONFIAR, Penca de Sábila, ISP y SINPRO.
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Medellín – Human Right on Water
Abstract: Shifts towards neoliberal policies since the 1980s in Latin America have facilitated the configuration of urban waterscapes in ways that inequalities are (re)produced. This economic model holds the promise that market oriented practices and private ownership are necessary solutions to deliver water services to the growing urban population…
López, M., Kuč, M. and Naranjo, J. 2016. Medellín – Human Right on Water. ARCH+ Magazine 223: 132-134.

Struggling for Public, Reclaiming Citizenship: Everyday Practices of Access to Water in Medellín, Colombia
Abstract: This chapter examines particular ways in which access to water matters politically, not only in its biophysical sense, but also as a powerful tool for citizenship recognition. Drawing on case study conducted in two unserved neighbourhoods located in Medellín, Colombia, this research unravels how households exceeding the urban perimeter struggle to secure access to water…
López, M. 2016. Struggling for Public, Reclaiming Citizenship: Everyday Practices of Access to Water in Medellín. Colombia. In McDonald, D.A. (Eds). Making Public in a Privatized World: The Struggle for Essential Services, pp. 165-178. London: Zed Books.

Public Engagement to Improve Water Services in Medellín
Abstract: Fighting against corruption is important to water integrity. However, the corruption focus can fall too short in explaining why the urban poor continue to be excluded from affordable and adequate water supply services. By drawing upon case study research conducted in Medellín, Colombia, this brief investigates…
López, M. 2016. Public Engagement to Improve Water Services in Medellín. WIN Policy Brief. Water Integrity Network.
(Open PDF)

¿Qué es lo público de Empresas Públicas de Medellín?
Abstract: La reciente y exitosa inserción de EPM en el en el mercado internacional constituye un momento adecuado para discutir y reflexionar sobre cuál es el significado de lo público en la ciudad de Medellín. Aunque la transformación de EPM en empresa multilatina ha significado para muchos un motivo de orgullo y admiración, muy poco se sabe cómo afecta este cambio a las poblaciones más vulnerables de la ciudad…
López, M. 2014. ¿Qué es lo Público de Empresas Públicas de Medellín? Agua. Bien Común 2: 4-10.

The Human Right to Water? From Continuous Flow to Prepaid Drops
Abstract: This study explores how access to water has become a contested terrain in a city that claims 99 per cent of water coverage and it is located in an area of privilege hydrological conditions. Paradoxically, while the city of Medellín (Colombia) owns one of the most successful public utility companies in Latin America – Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) and registers significant increment in its total revenues…
López, M., Kuč, M. and Naranjo, J. 2013. The Human Right to Water? From Continuous Flow to Prepaid Drops. ARCH+ Magazine 213: 102-105.

Flows of Water, Flows of Capital: Neoliberalization and Inequality in Medellín’s Urban Waterscape
Abstract: Over the past two decades, Colombia has witnessed a significant shift in the overall legal and policy domain in the water sector in order to adjust to the demands imposed by neoliberal economic reforms. Particularly in urban areas, this reform model has been deeply contested as it failed to provide low-income population with access to affordable and adequate water supply services…
López, M. 2013. Flows of Water, Flows of Capital: Neoliberalization and Inequality in Medellín’s Urban Waterscape. Working Paper Series No 38, Berlin: Research Network on Interdependent Inequalities in Latin America.
(Open PDF)