Rules, Norms, and Injustice: A Cross-Cultural Study of Perceptions of Justice in Water Institutions

Amber Wutich, Alexandra Slade, Abigail York, Rhian Stotts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Access to water is often inequitable, and perceived as unjust by stakeholders. Based on qualitative analysis of 135 ethnographic interviews in Bolivia, Fiji, Arizona, and New Zealand, we conduct a cross-cultural analysis to test for shared notions of justice in water institutions (i.e., rules, norms). A key finding is that institutional rules are a common concern in evaluations of justice, but institutional norms were prominent in justice evaluations only in the Bolivia site (where water access problems are most acute). Similarly, while concerns related to distributive and procedural justice were widely shared across community sites, interactional justice was only a salient concern in Bolivia. We propose that the study of water and other natural resource institutions will benefit from an expanded concept of environmental justice that includes interactional injustices and also a more explicit analytic focus on institutional norms, particularly for communities that face resource scarcity and less-developed economic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-809
Number of pages15
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Bolivia
  • Fiji
  • New Zealand
  • United States
  • cross-cultural
  • fairness
  • institutions
  • justice
  • norms
  • water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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