Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky / Dženeta Hodžić (Frankfurt M.)

Subterranean Waterworlding

Practices of Groundwater Management and Use in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina

Groundwater is a vital resource not only as drinking water but also for industry, agriculture and ecosystems, increasingly pressured by climate change, over-extraction and toxic input. Groundwater management and use need to be re-examined as existing regulatory frameworks show little effect even where it is supposedly well designed and implemented, such as the (Ground-) Water Framework Directive (G-WFD) in the EU. Institutional barriers have been identified as key bottlenecks in the G-WFD success. This is particularly true in the case of management of groundwater, characterised by the resource's invisibility, time lags in ecological effects and knowledge gaps in terms of hydro-ecological interactions.

Employing an ethnographic approach, we aim to address institutional dynamics by studying practices of groundwater management and use in light of G-WFD implementation efforts in one EU- and one non-EU state, namely the Republic of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Departing from STS-approaches to studying policy-making and knowledge practices, we want to trace groundwater in its material-semiotic multiplicity. We aim to consider both its materiality as it is transformed by technologies used to capture, extract and distribute the resource, and its social dimensions as groundwater is conceptualised differently by various actors as an inherited property, a common good, a marketable commodity and as an object of policies and management.

By presenting our research design of the newly started inter- and transdisciplinary research project regulate – Regulation of groundwater in telecoupled social-ecological systems, we hope to discuss our research approach in the context of ethnographic and anthropological engagements with water.