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Community-based water law and water resource management reform in developing countries
Water resource management reform today emphasizes user participation. However, in developing country contexts the water laws and institutions which have followed from this reform have consistently ignored how people actually manage their water. Informal rural and peri-urban water users have managed their water resources for centuries and continue to respond to new opportunities and threats, often entirely outside the ambit of formal government regulation or investment. The community-based water laws which guide this informal management in fact govern water development and management by significant numbers of water users, if not the majority of citizens and the bulk of the poor, who depend on water for multiple uses for fragile agrarian livelihoods. These community-based arrangements tend to have many of the people-based, pro-poor attributes desired in principle, if not always found in practice in current water management reform agendas - they are typically robust, dynamic and livelihood-oriented, and often encompass purposeful rule-setting and enforcement and provide incentives for collective action. At the same time, they can also be hierarchical and serve to entrench power and gender disparities. Ignoring community-based water laws and failing to build on their strengths, while overcoming their weaknesses, greatly reduce the chance of new water management regimes to meet their intended goals. In contrast, when the strengths of community-based water laws are combined with the strengths of public sector contributions to water development and management, the new regimes can more effectively lead to sustainable poverty alleviation, gender equity and overall economic growth. Indeed, the challenge for policy makers is to develop a new vision in which the indispensable role of the public sector takes existing community-based water laws into full account. This book contributes to this new vision. Leading authors analyse living community-based water laws in Africa, Latin America and Asia and critically examine the interface between community-based water laws, formal water laws and a variety of other key institutional ingredients of ongoing water resource management reform.