Balancing water rights in metropolitan water conservation areas: The case of Chengdu, China

Gao Chen, G. Bracken, T. Herdt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Water justice can be a delicate balancing act. Conservation regulations ensure urban areas’ water demands are met, but these may conflict with the water rights of local people living in catchment areas. No metropolis wants to face water shortages, yet prioritising municipalities’ rights over those of local people can result in water injustice. This paper explores water rights and water justice, defining both to show how the latter is achieved by balancing the former. It examines Chengdu’s water catchment area using field observation, interviews, and document analysis and investigates the causes of water conflict through the lens of local culture. The study then outlines a water justice framework involving domestic habits and lifestyle, production of water, and management principles with the aim of providing parity of rights that highlight local cultural factors. The justice criteria outlined here could also be used in other places where power structures disregard local people’s water rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalLocal Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • water justice
  • water rights
  • water conservation
  • local culture
  • Chengdu (China)


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