This paper critically reviews some of the global debates and narratives concerning water scarcity, water ‘crises’ and water resources management and shows what they are obscuring. It also examines the various positions on water ranging from those viewing water as an economic good to those viewing water as a human right. The paper demonstrates how global debates and perspectives tend to draw on rather vague political, economic and theoretical assumptions rather than empirically-grounded facts and realities.
The paper argues for the need for a greater pluralism in the debates and for more attention to be paid to the multifaceted dimensions of water and its various expressions. There is a need for critical research to map out the mismatch between rhetoric and reality across macro, meso and micro realms, and explicit links to be made between water and power and politics.