In this article, I examine the role of applied anthropology in coping with common water management dilemmas and in facilitating more equitable water management. Field research and interviews with Palestinian residents and water managers between 2012–2020 illuminate deep disagreements about two commonly used management tools: full-cost recovery pricing reforms and supply expansion through emerging water technologies. This case demonstrates that not only are there limits to the transportability of solutions across societies, but even within a society and among seemingly similar stakeholders, fundamental disagreement exists about a place’s water priorities and proper interventions. How do we explain the multiplicity of ways in which people seemingly of the same social group approach a single water issue? The article demonstrates an anthropological approach to understanding water use that draws political ecology’s focus on power together with attention to the intersectionality of peoples’ relationships to water. This approach can help water managers acknowledge the political impacts of purportedly apolitical management approaches, and it provides the basis for a more robust incorporation of diverse residents’ priorities into water management decision making.

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