When a poor state is controlled by corrupt and inefficient governments, public services deteriorate and citizens suffer. Historically, Bolivia’s governments never took an interest in water management, that is the reason it is not a state monopoly.
Many Bolivians, tired of waiting for a state intervention that would never take shape, decided to organize themselves to manage their own water systems. Decades ago Santa Cruz’s neighbors, joined by Cochabamba’s poorest neighbors, gathered in assemblies and started creating their own organizations to obtain and distribute water in their neighborhoods. These organizations set a monthly membership fee and establish community work targets, such as digging holes, installing water pipelines or transporting the materials needed for water system installation.
Santa Cruz’s cooperatives and Cochabamba’s water committees are two alternative models to public-state and private management, two examples of citizen organization to address the lack of state intervention. But, do this systems actually work?
In Bolivia’s Everyday Water War we explore some of these social experiences, their sustainability and their reach. Guided by a very special route map designed by our artist Francesca Canzi, we are going to visit three places that exemplify the three water management systems that exist in Bolivia, Cochambamba’s public company and the people’s committees at the south of the city, several cooperatives located in Santa Cruz de la Sierra and we are also going to discover how indigenous communities organize themselves in La Paz department.