Water History

, Volume 11, Issue 1–2, pp 59–73 | Cite as

Anthropology of changing paradigms of urban water systems

  • Ruchira GhoshEmail author
  • Arun Kansal


The dynamic interaction between society and nature is influenced by the prevailing normative, cognitive, and regulative societal systems, which guide the relationships between society and nature or ecology. Therefore, mature cities with increasingly complex urban interactions must shift from the simple agenda of demand–supply to multi-criterion models that takes into account factors like impacts of climate change, variation in settlement patterns, human vulnerability, and resource optimization to balance the society–ecology relationship. However, rapidly growing megacities have failed to balance their development and associated societal goals. This paper presents an assessment of the paradigm shift in the relationship between people and water as a resource, or the hydro-social construct, along a temporal gradient from about ad 1206 to the present for an ancient Asian city, namely Delhi. The city struggles at present with many challenges, including demographic fluctuations, increasing geographic spread, economic restructuring, changes in land use and settlement patterns, and, most relevant here, the transition from a water-sensitive city to a water-scarce city. The study identifies the causes of shifts in the water–society relationships and areas of interventions, that takes into account the physical, economic, and social characteristics of the city’s water resource to ensure that water, a basic human need, must be accessible to all inhabitants of the city.


Hydro-social construct Urban water Society Sustainability Governance 



We acknowledge the contribution of Mr Yateendra Joshi for copy-editing the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Sustainable Technologies, Belfast School of Architecture and the Built EnvironmentUlster UniversityNorthern IrelandUK
  2. 2.Department of Energy and EnvironmentTERI-SASNew DelhiIndia
  3. 3.Department of Regional Water StudiesTERI-SASNew DelhiIndia

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