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Drought is normal: The socio-technical evolution of drought and water demand in England and Wales, 1893–2006

Drought is normal: The socio-technical evolution of drought and water demand in England and Wales, 1893–2006

Taylor, Vanessa ORCID: 0000-0003-3639-7460, Chappells, Heather, Medd, Will and Trentmann, Frank (2009) Drought is normal: The socio-technical evolution of drought and water demand in England and Wales, 1893–2006. Journal of Historical Geography, 35 (3). pp. 568-591. ISSN 0305-7488 (doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2008.09.004)

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Abstract

Water stress is becoming a permanent feature of life in Britain and other developed societies, and attempts to change ‘consumer behaviour’ are at the forefront of strategies for sustainability. This paper combines historical, geographical and sociological perspectives on the evolution of drought and water demand in modern England and Wales. Droughts have natural properties but their course, size and distribution is also the result of an interplay between governance, social norms and everyday practices. Focusing on seven significant droughts between 1893 and 2006, this article traces changing understandings of ‘normal’ water consumption and ‘rational’ demand and relates them to the evolving socio-technical management of water and identities of ‘the consumer’. We challenge the idea of a watershed between private supply (associated with passive ‘customers’) and public ownership (associated with active ‘citizens’). While private systems facilitated self-organised civic action more easily than public supply, the ideal of a citizen-contract blinded systems of public provision to the problem of expanding water use. An interdisciplinary analysis of droughts in the past offers lessons for the debate about sustainable consumption today.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] This paper is based on research undertaken from two projects: ‘Liquid Politics’ (Trentmann and Taylor), part of the ESRC/AHRC Cultures of Consumption Research Programme (RES-154-25-0022); and an ESRC project, ‘Drought and Demand in 2006’ (Medd and Chappells), co-funded by UKWIR, Defra, OFWAT, Environment Agency, Anglian Water, Essex and Suffolk Water, Folkestone and Dover Water, Three Valleys Water and South-East Water (RES-0177-25-0002).
Uncontrolled Keywords: drought, demand, consumers, water provision, consumption, sustainability, life-style change, socio-technical systems
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Pre-2014 Departments: Greenwich Maritime Institute
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2017 09:32
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/5793

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