Spatial Justice and Religious Water Based Practices

Watson, Sophie (2019). Spatial Justice and Religious Water Based Practices. In: Watson, Sophie ed. Spatial Justice in the City. Space, Materiality and the Normative. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 62–78.



Spatial justice or injustice in relation to water is typically conceived in relation to water as a resource, or more specifically as the unequal distribution of scarcity. It is estimated that nearly half the world’s population (3.6 billion) live in areas that are potentially water scarce for at least one month of the year (WWAP 2018: 3). The global demand for water has been increasing by 1% annually due to population growth, water pollution has worsened in the majority of rivers across Africa, Latin America and Asia, and there has been increasing ecosystem degradation due to the poor condition of soil resources with impacts on higher evaporation and erosion, and the degraded state of the world’s forests. Lack of access to clean water in cities represents one of the greatest divisions between poorer and richer countries with cities in the Global South far more likely to be water stressed than cities in the Global North. There are many explanations for this, with environmental degradation playing a major part, but the privatisation of water across the world, which has increasingly challenged the notion of water as a common good, has meant that water is increasingly seen in relation to its potential for the extraction of profit, rather than as a basic human right. Arguably as the World Water Council points out ‘the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment suffer badly’ .

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