GV3WAT-Water Politics

Module Provider: Geography and Environmental Science
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Filippo Menga

Email: f.menga@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Water is a quintessential component for life and for the development of societies. Water is also an irreplaceable and transient resource, which crosses political boundaries in the form of rivers, lakes, and groundwater aquifers. Furthermore, water is not just a natural resource and a physical agent, but it is also deeply embedded in social, political, and economic processes. This module examines the political, social, international and economic aspects of freshwater resources from a geographical perspective, enabling students to develop a critical understanding of a number of issues related to the management and sharing of this resource. 


  • To provide students with an appreciation of the theoretical and empirical links among freshwater resources, political geography and political ecology;

  • To examine contemporary issues in global water governance related to hydrodiplomacy and international transboundary rivers;

  • To illustrate how environmental processes are also, and inherently, political ones:

  • To develop a critical understanding of the interrelation between water and social power, particularly in relation to the privatization of water resources and the interrelation between water, technology and the nation-state;

  • To explore the notion of waterscape and to examine the workings of water across different geographical scales;

  • To develop a critical awareness of water politics through group discussion and debate. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

At the end of the module students will:

  • Have a critical understanding of the politics of water resources;

  • Have an awareness of a number of different theoretical approaches to the politics of freshwater resources across various geographical scales;

  • Have acquired competence and understanding of contemporary issues and developments related to the management and sharing of freshwater resources:

  • Be able to start their own research project on the politics of freshwater resources

By the end of the module the students are expected to give a reasoned account of

(i) Theories of water politics set in the diverse geographical and political context;

(ii) Issues of water governance in different parts of the worlds;

(iii) The contemporary principles and practices of water governance;

(iv) Impacts of water scarcity;

(v) International water conflicts.

Additional outcomes:

Ability to develop a coursework question and project; development of skills of critical thinking and the presentation of arguments in oral and written form, specifically through students’ individual reading, research, and contribution to seminars.

Outline content:

This module will combine the critical discussion of theories surrounding water politics in political geography and political ecology with the analysis and evaluation of their application to case studies in diverse geographical contexts. Themes will include:

•        Introducing water: key notions on water distribution, uses and challenges;

•        Contemporary issues in global water governance: water law, water networks, water agendas, and hydrodiplomacy;

•        Waterscapes, scales, and the hydrosocial cycle;

•        Water and social power: Hydraulic bureaucracies and hydraulic civilisations;

•        Water and technology;

•        Water security and the human right to water;

•        The privatization of water resources;

•        International transboundary rivers 1: Conflict and cooperation over water resources;

•        International transboundary rivers 2: Water and Geopolitics , global water issues and conflict hotspots.

Global context:

The module will assess water politics on a global scale with in-depth case studies from Central Asia, North Africa and North America.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and video material.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 50

Summative assessment- Examinations:

one two-hour examination with essay-style questions

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One 3,000 word essay

Formative assessment methods:

Seminar discussions and debate of preparatory reading

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Resubmission of coursework and/or re-examination

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):



    Required text books


    Specialist equipment or materials


    Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear


    Printing and binding


    Computers and devices with a particular specification


    Travel, accommodation and subsistence


    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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