Rain Tanks, Springs, and Broken Pipes As Emerging Water Commons Along Salmon Creek, CA, USA
Large waterworks helped to produce California's cities, agricultural bounty, and attendant discourses of progress, private property, and human control over riverine ecosystems (Woelfle-Erskine, 2007). However, over the past two decades, water governance has been decentralized and some infrastructure diversified with rain tank retrofits, creating new local waterscapes in the interstices of California's ‘hydraulic society’ (California Department of Water Resources, 2005; Worster, 1992). These local waterscapes emerge entangled with alternate discourses of human-ecological collaboration and water as a public trust or commons, which in turn generate new cultural practices and governance strategies (Woelfle-Erskine, in press). I develop a field interview approach to investigate how installing rain tanks initiates shifts in water practices and environmental imaginaries along Salmon Creek (Sonoma County). There, a collaborative citizen-agency project has to date installed rain tanks with a total capacity of two million litres, aiming to improve water security for rural residents and increase late-summer streamflow to benefit endangered salmon. Residents who participate in monitoring salmon populations, water quality, and their own springs and rain tanks report that these activities have increased their sense of interdependence with other human and nonhuman neighbours who rely on the watershed’s limited water sources. Drawing on Barad’s (2007) concepts of apparatus and intra-action, I argue that the notion of water as an interspecies commons is co-evolving with rainwater harvesting and that collective choice frameworks that embrace both management practices and environmental imaginaries represent a coherent alternative both to state and market frameworks of water governance and to traditional adaptive management methods and discourses.
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