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Abstract

In this article, we argue that the Tribunal de las Aguas, historically part of a larger complex of irrigation communities, provides a foundation for an alternative model of water management, and has survived for over a thousand years precisely because it answers the community’s needs, and contributes to Valencian regional identity. As research has recently shown in African cases, providing education, infrastructure, and management opportunities to local communities helps to encourage both sustainability and direct involvement in water distribution, contrary to the impersonal distribution characteristic of privatized systems. The Tribunal de las Aguas has transcended tremendous political, social, and economic change in Spain in general, and Valencia in particular, and remains an important facet of local identity. As water issues become more and more pressing in the face of climate change, pollution, and seemingly insatiable demand, we will need to find more creative and innovative ways to address the often conflicting demands on this most valuable resource. Furthermore, the gendered aspects of water rights and distribution continue to play such a significant role in our global water cultures, and our article will contribute to a larger discussion of women’s roles in irrigation and water use in different historical contexts.

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