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Abstract

Khorezm Province is located in the Amu Darya lowlands of Uzbekistan, where unsustainable use of irrigation water has led to the Aral Sea crisis. This study deals with the question of how farmers in Khorezm perceive water and its management and how this facilitates or prevents water conservation, or “water saving,” in irrigated agriculture. To answer this from the perspective of the water users, we apply Schütz's lifeworld concept to the study of natural-resource management, thereby reconstructing the water lifeworld of Khorezmian farmers. We present the spatial and temporal boundaries of the water lifeworld; the different types of water, people, and land that farmers distinguish; and the institutions water management is based on. The analysis shows that religious values and the risk of being fined for water wasting facilitate water saving. However, the following barriers to water saving dominate farmer practices: (1) storage of saved water is not possible, (2) using much water creates social capital, (3) perceived water needs exceed the geographical realities, (4) the term “water saving” is not in use, and (5) farmers believe that water management is the state's responsibility. We conclude that water saving should be facilitated by environmental education, a strengthening of the water-inspection department Uzsuvnazorat, and the creation of decentralized storage options.