Dissertation Abstracts

Trust in Water: An Institutional Analysis of China's Urban Tap Water Provision System

Author: Xiaoyang Zhang, moongoat802@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of Essex, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Prof. Mark Harvey
Year of completion: 2017
Language of dissertation: ??

Keywords: Tap Water , China , Consumer , Trust
Areas of Research: Environment and Society


This thesis aims to present an of institutional analysis of China’s urban tap water provision system from ‘source to sip’ holistic view. With the examination of each agent’s function in the system, this thesis defines the concept of semi-potable tap water and the Hybrid Institutional Architecture to illustrate the essence of China’s current urban water provision system as a ‘source to consumer’ semi-potable tap water provision system. Based on this argument, the concept of Consumer Coping Strategy Matrix is established with analyses of its seven facilitating factors to explain Chinese tap water consumers’ involvement in the potable water production, which creates the ‘consumer to sip’ potable water production process, which compensates the systematic flaw of ‘source to consumer’ urban semi-potable tap water provision system and turns it into a ‘source to sip’ urban potable water provision system. The normalisation re-enforcement between semi-potable tap water, the Hybrid Institutional Architecture and Consumer Coping Strategy Matrix makes this system lack of developmental stimulations and becomes a stable and self-balanced system, which further intensifies consumer’s powerlessness in water crises. All of these contributes to the form of consumer’s institutionalised distrust in semi-potable tap water. With this institutionalised distrust, the imbalance between the Hybrid Institutional Architecture, the Consumer Coping Strategy Matrix and water crises makes consumer the trigger of sociogenic water sustainability crises. A detailed case study of Harbin is presented to demonstrate the two sociogenic water sustainability crises happened in Harbin with archival data and the establishments of contingent combination model, and the Hybrid Institutional Architecture of Harbin’s urban tap water provision system with examining interview materials from four senior officials of key departments.

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