“Livelihood outside El Fasher” – Golo reservoir, near El Fasher, North Darfur. Photo credit: Albert González Farran, UNAMID (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr

Water governance, like many other global issues, is becoming increasingly intractable (wicked) with climate change and is, by the international community, being linked to instances of threats to human security, the war in the Sudanese Darfur and more recently the acts of terrorism perpetuated by ISIS. In this paper, the authors ask the question: how can situations characterized by water controversy (exacerbated by the uncertainties posed by climate change) be reconciled?

The main argument is based on a critique of the way the water security discourse appropriates expert (normal) claims about human-biophysical relationships. When water challenges become increasingly securitized by the climate change discourse it becomes permissible to enact processes that legitimately transgress normative positions through post-normal actions.

In contrast, the water equity discourse offers an alternative reading of wicked and post-normal water governance situations. The authors contend that by infusing norm critical considerations into the process of securitization, new sub-national constellations of agents will be empowered to enact changes; thereby bypassing vicious cycles of power brokering that characterize contemporary processes intended to address controversies.