Innovating resource regimes: Water, wastewater, and the institutional dynamics of urban hydraulic reach in northwest Mexico

Christopher A. Scott, Nicolás Pineda Pablos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The twin facets of urban hydraulic reach - cities' appropriation of water from surrounding regions and irrigation use of urban wastewater over a growing rural footprint - form an emerging global policy challenge, especially as democratizing societies seek institutional means to address both urban growth and water scarcity. A central concern of this paper is to demonstrate that policy regionalism, as a process-based understanding of institutions and decision-making, better explains the causes, forms, and outcomes of hydraulic reach than do more structural approaches. Hermosillo, Mexico presents an unfolding case of rural-urban tension for control over rivers and aquifers as well as the infrastructure for water capture, storage, conveyance, and wastewater release. The analysis employs process documentation of water transfer and wastewater negotiations through interviews, review of primary documents, and field observations. Hermosillo's recourse to negotiated agreements and quasi-market transactions, led by an emerging group of public sector innovators, advances understanding of water policy in Mexico by moving beyond prevailing concerns with the water reform's neoliberal underpinnings to exploration of rapidly changing urban-centered experimentation. We conclude that evolving urban-rural power disparities and water resource landscapes of urban growth will drive continued expansion of hydraulic reach in water-scarce regions globally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-450
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Hydraulic reach
  • Mexico
  • Policy regionalism
  • Urban water
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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