RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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84 Wet Geographies II: Water in the Anthropocene: creative approaches to understanding and re-thinking human-water relationships (Discourses and engagement) (2)
Convenor(s) Liz Roberts (University of the West of England, UK)
Katherine Jones (University of the West of England, UK)
Chair(s) Liz Roberts (University of the West of England, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 02 September 2015, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Forum - Seminar Room 2
Session abstract Water resource depletion, pollution, extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic climate change and water conflicts are some of the most urgent issues facing global society. These challenges often seem technical, even abstract, and couched in policy/scientific language which create distance between humans and water as a ‘natural’ resource and set of processes and flows. However, humans also have profoundly intimate relationships with water, for example at a bodily level, through sensuous and recreational encounters and through ‘watery senses of place’ (Anderson and Peters, 2014; Jones, 2014; McEwen et al., 2014). Water, in differing forms, ‘carries’ imaginative, discursive and symbolic roles in all human lives. Politically and culturally ‘water is everywhere’ (Linton, 2010). Our connections with water have profound implications for how we use, misuse, maintain, preserve and conserve water, and how through water we affect other lives ­ human and non-human. Recent research therefore looks to new and creative methods to approach multiple water-related challenges in the Anthropocene (Whatmore, 2013).

This session aims to bring together water scholars and practitioners to explore methods for creatively engaging with water issues and human-water relations. Presentations may include but are not limited to:
- creative ways of engaging with publics and agencies/organisations
alternative knowledges and co-production
- creative approaches to presentation (of knowledge/research, e.g. river walks, exhibitions)
- uses of cultural resources (text, image, archive) and methods (stories, encounters, art-science collaboration, digital stories) to think about human-water relations
- materialities of water
- water ecologies
- inter/transdisciplinary approaches to water issues
Linked Sessions Wet Geographies I: Under the Sea: Geographies of the Deep
Wet Geographies II Water in the Anthropocene: creative approaches to understanding and re-thinking human-water relationships (Alternative Knowledge) (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Re-envisioning the Hydro Cycle: The Hydro Spiral as a Participatory Tool for Water Education and Management
Rebecca Farnum (King's College London, UK)
Ruth MacDougall (University of East Anglia, UK)
Charlie Thompson (USGS)
“All models are wrong, but some are useful” (George E. P. Box).
In 1934, the National Resources Board of the United States of America published the first visually descriptive hydrologic cycle diagram. Like water itself, this simple graphic has evolved in some ways and remained stagnant in others throughout the past eighty years. Multiple edits have been made, graphics have become more realistic, and many agencies and organisations have developed their own diagrams. Yet the majority of hydro cycle diagrams continue to ignore or understate the role of humans in the hydrologic system and the vast diversity of watersheds. For some time now, social scientists of water have been offering critiques of the ‘classic’ hydro cycle, with scholarship emerging around the ‘hydrosocial cycle’ and increased consideration of water’s interplay with other systems through the food-water-energy nexus, the planetary boundaries framework, and others.
Building from these critiques and advances in our thinking on the teaching and modelling of water’s movement in the anthropocene, a Working Group at the University of East Anglia has created a participatory tool for exploring the historical, political, economic, cultural, and natural processes of water. The “hydro spiral” is a dynamic visual graphic for use by researchers, teachers, managers, and activists allowing for a variety of conceptions of and communications around water. This paper will review the existing literature on water modelling in the anthropocene, describe the creation of the hydro spiral, and present initial results from its use in classrooms.

Waste not… How water reuse may be shifting our relationship to sewage
Heather M. Smith (Cranfield University, UK)
Daniel Goodwin (Cranfield University, UK)
Jos Frijns (KWR Watercycle Research Institute, Netherlands)
Societies are increasingly recognising that wastewater need not be considered ‘waste’ at all. Rather than simply a nuisance to be rid of, municipal sewage is now commonly used to produce energy, recover nutrients, and augmenting our water resources (and sometimes our drinking water directly) through water reuse schemes. The successes and failures of water reuse schemes around the world are shaped by complex interrelationships between technological, economic and socio-political factors. Among the latter, public perceptions of risks and benefits can have a dramatic influence on overall outcomes. For that reason, public engagement strategies have become key aspects of many water reuse schemes. This paper offers some significant insights around the human dimensions of water reuse by exploring the experiences of public engagement from several reuse schemes in Europe and around the world. As part of a larger European research project on the potential of the water reuse sector, this study combines a review of selected global case studies with empirical evidence from UK and European cases – drawn from in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders including the owners and/or operators of the reuse scheme, end users, and government/regulatory bodies. The findings show that water service providers and other stakeholders are finding increasingly creative ways of engaging with and sometimes challenging public views and assumptions about reuse. In so doing, they may be facilitating a shift in our overall experience of wastewater.
Lt. Breaker Morant and The Baron’s Chair: Materiality, Memory and Exclusion in an Australian Water Community
Lia Bryant (University of South Australia, Australia)
This paper examines how the intertwining of materiality and memory in rural landscapes shape contemporary social imaginaries of place that configure and reconstitute social practices of exclusion. Exclusion in water communities often occurs across race, class, ethnicity and gender delimiting the rights of citizens to equally engage in communities in consultations about national and state water policies and at the local level in decisions about how water should be accessed and used for irrigation and in some cases domestically.

Examination of historical artifacts, provide a rich source of data about rural communities enabling exploration of the complexities associated with how ‘community’ is constituted. This paper focuses on a local water trust, a community based organisation charged with governing and regulating water provisions to local horticulturalists and viticulturist in a river region of South Australia. The past and contemporary texture of this irrigation community is evident in the tangible and material goods on display in the water trusts’ place of business. Historical photographs and furniture show how memories and practices of exclusion have been constructed and legitimated overtime through colonial and patriarchal spatialities.
Experiences of "Mundane" and "Crisis" Water(s): Challenging social practice theory’s exclusion of "water" in accounts of water demand
Alison Browne (The University of Manchester, UK)
Claire Hoolohan (The University of Manchester, UK)
In recent years, much of the research into household water demand in the UK and Australia has reframed the object of study from ‘people’ to ‘practices’. Part of the aim of this on-going development, embedded in theories of social practice, is to encourage policy and business practice to reflect on, and respond to, the complexities of household demand. Such approaches spurn the idea that ‘attitudes’ and ‘beliefs’ about the environment and water shape household water use, which is also readily supported by research into the value-action gap. Instead the focus of enquiry becomes the complex interrelations of elements that shape everyday practices such as notions of cleanliness and comfort, infrastructures and technologies, and everyday routines. Here we reflect on recent research into water demand, water efficiency and disruption to question the absence of ‘nature’ and ‘waters’ in social practice theory accounts of demand. We argue that everyday experiences of water, from the mundane (living in rainy UK!) to the severe (flood or drought), have at least some effect on practices associated with domestic water use. We reflect on attempts to construct alternative human-water relations and the implications of these for water consuming practices in the home. We aim to provoke discussion around the implications for on-going research agendas and future engagements with organisations and policy makers.
Swimming as Healthy Blue Space Practice
Ronan Foley (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
There has been a recent upsurge of interest for geographers in all things blue. Through developing concerns with oceans and coasts, the role of person-place interactions in littoral environments has emerged as an important topic in human geography. This paper will present an example of such research from a health geography setting, with a particular interest in the emergent subject of ‘healthy blue space’. The paper is drawn from empirical material from a project on the oral history of outdoor swimming in a number of locations around the coast of Ireland, but also from some inland swimming places. These include the 40 Foot in Dublin, the Guillemene near Tramore and the Pollock Holes in Kilkee as well as on the River Barrow. In all of the accounts, the emotional and affective aspects of swimming outdoors are framed against both a strong sense of place and a wider understanding of health and wellbeing. In addition, and drawing from older phenomenological work on lifeworlds, the act of swimming reflects a range of mobile and relational concerns. These include how human-water engagements are enacted across the life-course and in complex inter-generational spaces. In particular, the role of outdoor swimming as a healthy immersive practice, in terms of embodied and emotional wellbeing, but also as an experiential encounter of recovery and rehabilitation from a range of physical and mental illnesses, emerge as key findings from the research.