Fifty public-standpipes: Politicians, local elections, and struggles for water in Barranquilla

Tatiana Acevedo-Guerrero*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, the Barranquilla World Bank Project aimed to expand water supply to the southwestern sector of the city, populated mainly by low-income communities. Anticipating the duration of the works, the project included a short-term solution: it would install 50 public-standpipes during the first months of implementation. Through archival work, this article tells the story of the World Bank Project and the fifty public-standpipes —which were never built. Its purpose is to analyse how water/power distributions were reworked and consolidated, highlighting tensions triggered by the project. It evidences the messiness of formal politics and the complexity of political parties (their competing interests, and the fact that these changed over time). This is of interest as it focuses on professional politics, a subject rarely touched by the political ecology literature. I argue that when examining water’s urbanization and the implementation of policy reforms in the global South, political ecology should engage in reflections about local professional politicians and party life as one that is not homogeneous nor static, where different ideas concerning water and the city emerge, clash, and converge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-181
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number1
Early online dateSept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Political ecology
  • professional politicians
  • infrastructure
  • water/power distribution
  • urban south


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