Water security for whom?
Social and material perspectives on inequality around multipurpose reservoirs in Colombia

THESys Project

Water for Whom investigates in/equalities in water security across the water-energy-food nexus focusing on the case of multipurpose reservoirs in Colombia. Building on the large body of literature on conflicts surrounding the construction of hydropower dams, the project advances research on the post-construction phase of multipurpose reservoirs and in post-conflict societies.

Dams – like many other man-made and ‘natural’ interventions – reconfigure social-ecological systems as much in material as they do in social terms. It is thus an understanding of socio-material dynamics that forms the basis of our research on how multipurpose dams reconfigure and may disrupt local livelihoods and water, energy and food sectors. Recognizing that the social-ecological impacts of dams – and their operation – are unequally distributed across social groups and geographies, by asking ‘water security for whom’ we seek to investigate how and to what extent water security of some social groups can come at the cost of water, or food/energy, insecurity of others. A key objective is to broaden the notion of equality from a social to a social-ecological concept operationalized through the concept of ‘hydrosocial territories’ and through a novel methodology of interdisciplinary integration and contrast. This new approach of ‘situated modelling’ is advanced and empirically tested to foster conversations between social and natural sciences and affected communities around predictive knowledge and water security.

Water for Whom brings together an interdisciplinary team of researchers from IRI THESys, the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. The project is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation as part of the initiative “Global Issues – Integrating Different Perspectives on Social Inequality”.

Project Team

PIs: Prof. Tobias Krüger, (IRI THESys), Prof. Cesar Ortiz-Guerrero (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana), Prof. Leticia Santos de Lima (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais)

Co-PIs: Prof. Jörg Niewöhner (IRI THESys), Prof. Patrick Hostert (IRI THESys), Prof. Efraín Dominguez Calle (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana), Prof. Daniel Castillo Brieva (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana), Prof. Aline Mahalhães (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), Prof. Raoni Rajão (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), Prof. Nilo Nascimiento (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais)

Postdocs: Dr. Rossella Alba (IRI THESys), Dr. Phillip Rufin (Humboldt-Universität)

Doctoral researchers: Masiel Melissa Pereira Prado (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana), Úrsula Jaramillo Villa (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana), Camila Jiménez (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana), Caroline Salomão (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), Thaís Oliveira (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), Laura Pulgarin Morales (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana)

Project Partners

  • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment-Systems (IRI THESys)
  • Pontificia Universidad Javeriana – Faculty of Environmental and Rural Studies Rural and Regional Development Department
  • Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais – Hydraulics Engineering and Water Resources Department, Escola de Engenharia
WaterLandClimateInfrastructure & Energy


Tobas Krüger

Tobias Krüger
Principal Investigator
Email: tobias.krueger@hu-berlin.de