Parchedness, politics, and power: the state hydraulic in Yemen



Historically, Yemen was noted for its sustainable, locally-adapted system of water management. Today, however, it faces one of the world's most acute shortages of water, driven chiefly by unsustainable rates of groundwater depletion. This article seeks to explain Yemen's present water crisis as the result of a political ecology dominated both by an expansionist Yemeni state and rural elites. By adopting intensive groundwater abstraction as a key development strategy, Yemen has produced an unsustainable basis for future economic and social development. The Yemeni case confirms both the importance of states and elites in the political ecology of water systems, and indicates that rural as well as urban water systems are characterized by patterns of exclusion and marginalization. As Yemen attempts to reap the fruits of the Arab Spring, it must adopt reform of its broken system of water management as one of its most pressing national objectives.

Keywords: Yemen, groundwater depletion, developmental state, hydraulic civilization, water scarcity

How to Cite: Moore, S. (2011) “Parchedness, politics, and power: the state hydraulic in Yemen”, Journal of Political Ecology. 18(1). doi: