Water justice: exploring the social dimensions of new irrigation technologies in northern Victoria, Australia

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Water resource management is one of the most pressing human and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Technological approaches to improving the management of water feature prominently, with technology positioned as the solution to issues of competing interests and the achievement of water savings. This paper analyses the social dimensions of a regional-level irrigation technology, examining the piloting of Total Channel Control™ technology in northern Victoria, Australia, as a case study. Water savings, organisational efficiency, on-demand ordering, occupational health and safety improvements, and many other benefits were anticipated to flow from this ‘world first’ technology. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with stakeholders and participant observation of an irrigation committee, this paper examines stakeholder accounts regarding piloting of the technology. We argue that in order to achieve justice and fairness in implementing regional irrigation technology, three essential criteria must be met: genuine consultation, participation and negotiation; responsive and respectful dialogue and communication; and mutual information exchange. As society shifts towards greater reliance on technological intervention to solve some of the most pressing dilemmas of the modern era, a more holistic approach focusing on the complexity of human interaction with the technology is vital.

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