Rules, regulations and systems for improved water resource management

Common property resources such as pastureland, forests, groundwater, surface water such as tanks or ponds provide an array of social and economic benefits for a wide variety of users. But the institutional arrangements governing the use of these resources are ambiguous and sometimes lead to social conflicts and resource degradation. For example, groundwater is an open access resource and uncontrolled abstraction has led to depleting water tables and low quality water.

It has been argued that access to water can be ensured only through delinking water rights from land rights along with clearly defined property rights on water. Most of the tanks (traditional water systems) have, over time, degraded into open access resources due to weak property relations. Encroachment, privatization and government appropriation of the tanks have been the main outcomes of the failure of local authority system to enforce the institutional arrangements under common property resources management regimes. Watershed development encompasses most of these resources. Management of these resources results in both positive and negative externalities impacting on different parts of the communities. It is important to understand that different sources of water cannot be viewed in isolation since groundwater, tank resources and watersheds are hydrologically interlinked and policies have to be conceptualized considering these aspects.

Under this broad topic, the CE-WLP members felt the need to focus on:

  • Dynamism: The ability of institutions to change, adapt and grow with the project’s development to meet the changing needs of communities (shift of focus from hardware to more management aspects, market linkages etc as the soil and water conservation measures start yielding results)
  • Sustainability of the systems/institutions developed, especially in the post-project period
  • Renewal of leadership and value systems in the collective to ensure principles of joint management, equity etc are followed in the post project period (existence of a participatory democratic culture rather than a hierarchical leadership).


Related lessons learnt