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Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities
Research project

Changing Water Cultures (CANALS)

The EU-funded CANALS project will investigate new ways of mobilising knowledge of water infrastructures to promote adaptive decision-making.

An abstract figure in green and light blue with the text CANALS  changing water cultures
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CANALS

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The aim of the project is to develop transdisciplinary ways of convening an ‘extended peer community’ of water stakeholders for policymaking. The European continent is covered by several millions of kilometres of flowing waters and more than a million lakes. Climate change (changes in average temperature, precipitation, and weather intensity) is putting significant stress on EU water infrastructures.

The project claims that current understandings of water, climate, and infrastructures struggle to address emerging uncertainties due to climate change. Also, a proper regard for water cultures is required. Under the project’s perspective, cultures are considered to be both practices and systems of symbols and meanings.

Objective

The changing climate is disrupting freshwater infrastructures. Dominant technocratic systems of knowledge and practice supporting water infrastructures in Europe are being undermined by rapid changes, which introduce new uncertainties and contest old securities.

We need novel ways of mobilising knowledge for water infrastructures that readmits communities’ diverse cultural interactions with water to promote adaptive decision-making.

The CANALS project begins from three claims:

(i) that current understandings of water, climate, and infrastructures struggle to address emerging uncertainties due to climate change

(ii) that a proper regard for water cultures is needed to overcome these obstacles; particularly by

(iii) extending the ‘peer communities’ of diverse knowledge-holders.

CANALS’ water culture perspective recognises the hybrid character of water, which exists independently of humans and at the same time is culturally enacted through human practices. It also sees infrastructures as social practices connecting people and objects in the world in socio-material relations. A water-cultural perspective thus better captures the complex processes around water infrastructures in the context of challenges posed by climate change.

Adopting an innovative water culture perspective, CANALS will first make visible the spectrum of knowledges and practices used by different social groups for maintaining infrastructures. Going further, the project will develop transdisciplinary ways of convening an ‘extended peer community’ of water stakeholders, to together appraise the quality of their water knowledges for policymaking.