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Household water sharing: A review of water gifts, exchanges, and transfers across cultures

Wutich, Amber; Budds, Jessica; Jepson, Wendy; Harris, Leila M.; Adams, Ellis; Brewis, Alexandra; Cronk, Lee; Demyers, Christine; Maes, Kenneth; Marley, Tennille; Miller, Joshua; Pearson, Amber; Rosinger, Asher Y.; Schuster, Roseanne C.; Stoler, Justin; Staddon, Chad; Wiessner, Polly; Workman, Cassandra; Young, Sera


Amber Wutich

Jessica Budds

Wendy Jepson

Leila M. Harris

Ellis Adams

Alexandra Brewis

Lee Cronk

Christine Demyers

Kenneth Maes

Tennille Marley

Joshua Miller

Amber Pearson

Asher Y. Rosinger

Roseanne C. Schuster

Justin Stoler

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Chad Staddon
Professor/Associate Head of Department: Research and Scholarship

Polly Wiessner

Cassandra Workman

Sera Young


Water sharing offers insight into the everyday and, at times, invisible ties that bind people and households with water and to one another. Water sharing can take many forms, including so-called “pure gifts,” balanced exchanges, and negative reciprocity. In this study, we examine water sharing between households as a culturally embedded practice that may be both need-based and symbolically meaningful. Drawing on a wide-ranging review of diverse literatures, we describe how households practice water sharing cross-culturally in the context of four livelihood strategies (hunter-gatherer, pastoralist, agricultural, and urban). We then explore how cross-cutting material conditions (risks and costs/benefits, infrastructure and technologies), socioeconomic processes (social and political power, water entitlements, ethnicity and gender, territorial sovereignty), and cultural norms (moral economies of water, water ontologies, and religious beliefs) shape water sharing practices. Finally, we identify five new directions for future research on water sharing: conceptualization of water sharing; exploitation and status accumulation through water sharing, biocultural approaches to the health risks and benefits of water sharing, cultural meanings and socioeconomic values of waters shared; and water sharing as a way to enact resistance and build alternative economies. This article is categorized under: Human Water > Value of Water Human Water > Rights to Water.


Wutich, A., Budds, J., Jepson, W., Harris, L. M., Adams, E., Brewis, A., …Young, S. (2018). Household water sharing: A review of water gifts, exchanges, and transfers across cultures. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water, 5(6), e1309.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jun 18, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 7, 2018
Publication Date Nov 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2018
Publicly Available Date Sep 11, 2019
Journal Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Print ISSN 2049-1948
Electronic ISSN 2049-1948
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 6
Pages e1309
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: [Wutich, A., Budds, J., Jepson, W., Harris, L. and Staddon, C. (2018) Household water sharing: A review of water gifts, exchanges, and transfers across cultures. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews - Water, 5 (6). ISSN 2049-1948], which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


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