One of the most crucial discussions within water resource management is the debate between those who defend the concept of economic efficiency and those who privilege notions of social equity. This tension is located at the core of binary categories that currently constitute the public debate within comparative water law and policy. These categories are commodity/human right, private property/common property, free-market/state regulation, and market value/community value. This paper explores this tension by studying how neoclassical economics understands efficiency and tracing its rise as a key hegemonic principle for water resource management. I also present equity as a conceptual opposition to efficiency and describe its institutionalization through the human-right-to-water frame. A problematization of both the equity approach and the human-right-to-water frame follows. Finally, I propose a political ecology approach to better understand the tension between efficiency and equity and offer recommendations for informing the water research agenda on efficiency/equity.

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