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Pop-up infrastructure: Water ATMs and new delivery networks in India

Schmidt, Jeremy J.

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Over the last decade, thousands of water ATMs have been installed across the Global South. In India, these vending machines increasingly augment both formal and informal networks of water supply and delivery. This article examines media reports on water ATMs in India in order to survey some of the variance across different water ATM technologies with respect to cost, capacity, and fit with infrastructure networks. It then examines how water ATMs are socially and politically positioned with respect to existing, promised, and incomplete infrastructure projects where they are installed: slums, hospitals, commuting routes, railway stations, rural villages, religious sites, and in 'smart city' initiatives. The analysis considers how water ATMs frustrate the distinctions between formal and informal infrastructure that are often used to describe differences in water networks. The article develops a novel approach to water ATMs as 'pop-up infrastructure' in which the movement of matter is operationally independent from, and only contingently reliant on, existing water delivery networks. Despite their unique aspects, water ATMs produce new common borders among social, material, and political relations to water. These relations are often contested and suggest important areas for future research on water ATMs.


Schmidt, J. J. (2020). Pop-up infrastructure: Water ATMs and new delivery networks in India. Water alternatives, 13(1), 119-140

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 9, 2020
Publication Date Jan 1, 2020
Deposit Date Jan 9, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 3, 2020
Journal Water alternatives
Publisher Water Alternatives Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 1
Pages 119-140
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Published Journal Article (581 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike License which permits any non commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited. See

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