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id21 insights 67 l June 2007

i d21 insights
research findings for development policymakers and practitioners

New directions
for water
Water governance is a significant feature of
international development policymaking. There is
an increasing consensus on the need for improved
water governance to achieve the Millennium
Development Goals.

A series of international summit meetings, Despite many case studies of ‘good People in Nkayi district, Matabeleland, Zimbabwe,
most recently the Fourth World Water practice’, there has been a lack of enquiry discuss access to a hand-dug well, which is mostly
used for garden watering. This is a drought-prone
Forum in Mexico in 2006, have agreed and understanding as to how governance area and access to water is largely governed by
key principles of governance that shape actually works in relation to water, and strong social traditions, rather than formal rules.
water policy and management. These how to achieve equitable outcomes. This Frances Cleaver, 2005
principles include the need for integrated edition of id21 insights presents research
water resource management, increased that moves beyond the principles of good
participation of all water users (especially governance to improve our understanding use contrasting case studies of local
women) in financing and management, of how governance works in practice. water tariffs to show that governance
and a larger role for the private sector.  encompasses a huge diversity of
These principles represent a shift in The complexity of water governance arrangements in different contexts.
international consensus about water Water governance is complex, with Although they focus on local governance
governance, from: many forms and contexts. Tom le arrangements, these profitability concerns
l state provision of water services to Quesne’s article considers the issue of have implications for wider processes of
regulated market provision scale: to what level is governance best water sustainability and access.
l centrally administered management to devolved for optimal water management
user-based management arrangements? Tom Slaymaker and Further research and action
l service-oriented management to Peter Newborne discuss the composite These articles illustrate some of the
resource-centred management. nature of rights. This helps us to breadth and complexity of water

However, such policies have been criticised understand mechanisms for governing
for being underpinned by narrowly neo- water access and allocations, such as
liberal economic principles, dominated the right to basic minimum amounts of Contents
by technical and managerial concerns, water. These mechanisms are shaped by
and informed by limited methodologies wider rights and resources in society, with
and empirical data. Non-governmental different outcomes for different people. Customary laws 2
organisations and campaigning groups Linden Vincent explains how The question of scale 3
have questioned the pro-privatisation participatory institutions are not a simple
focus, the neglect of ecological concerns, solution to water governance problems: Money matters in Tanzania 4
and equity issues. they are shaped by wider issues within a
society, such as power relations. Rural water supply in Nigeria 4
Challenging the consensus Faustin Maganga argues that Achieving water security 5
The recent ‘Water Governance: governance arrangements should draw
Challenging the Consensus’ seminar on customary laws. Rose Osinde and Water rights 5
series aimed to bring together academics Mandy Turner ask us to focus less on
and practitioners to critically explore high profile ‘water wars’ and more on Competition for water 6
key themes in water governance. It was local conflicts over water resources. In Useful websites 6
funded by the UK Economic and Social doing so, we see that water governance
Research Council and jointly organised is embedded in power relations that often
by the University of Bradford and the lead to the unequal distribution of other Bruce Lankford from the University of East Anglia,
UK, provided academic advice for this issue.
Overseas Development Institute (both resources (such as land and technology).
in the UK) and the World Wildlife Fund. Robin Todd and Alexia Haysom
governance, but cannot cover all the issues. to work at the ‘messy middle’ between

We summarise the main areas for further national policymaking and local practices. Customary laws for
work: Making water governance work for managing water
Expanding the definition of governance
Water governance is more than just good
poor people
There is a continuing need to understand
government. It works through networks how to improve water access for poor Current water governance reforms in most
and relationships between government, people. Single solutions are unlikely to be southern African countries focus on the
the public, private and voluntary sectors, effective: increasing the influence of poor legal systems for regulating water use.
community groups and citizens themselves. people in water governance requires a However, these countries have pluralistic
The contribution of these different partners range of inter-related interventions. legal systems, which include statutory
is essential for meeting the water targets in laws, the customary laws of different
Frances Cleaver and Tom Franks ethnic groups and Islamic law.
the Millennium Development Goals. Bradford Centre for International Development,
Recent research coordinated by the
Support at the interface Bradford BD7 1DP, UK T +44 (0)1274 233967 University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania
Water governance involves dynamic political T +44 (0)1274 235272 investigated whether neglecting customary
processes of power and negotiation, laws has negative consequences for poor
particularly between service providers See also people. The research, conducted in South
Papers from the ‘Water Governance: Challenging the
and users. The agreed principles of good Consensus’ series can be found at:
Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, shows:
governance must be balanced with context- l Customary laws are often more effective
specific initiatives. There is a particular need than other water governance systems,
especially for poor people.
l Empirical evidence indicates that imposed
Water governance and poverty: a framework for analysis laws usually overshadow the survival of
customary practices. In conflicts between
Defining water governance This framework helps us to understand water local people and the state, the reality is that
Rogers and Hall, in their work for the Global governance as multi-layered, multi-dimensional imposed legal regimes are authoritative.
Water Partnership in 2003, define water and dynamic. There are no simple widely l There is a general lack of understanding
governance as ‘the range of political, social, applicable arrangements of optimal governance about customary laws amongst water
economic and administrative systems that that will always yield fair outcomes. Rather, management practitioners and policymakers
are in place to develop and manage water we see a rich diversity of context-specific in the three countries.
resources, and the delivery of water services, arrangements shaped by wider processes in
at different levels of society’. We build on this society. One key challenge is assessing how The importance of customary laws
by adding concepts of power and agency: we much these arrangements are likely to increase In rural South Africa, customary management
see water governance as ‘the system of actors, equity and sustainability in water access. structures play an important role in managing
resources, mechanisms and processes which The ideas and underlying links expressed in water resources and settling disputes over
mediate society’s access to water’. this framework are discussed at length in a water use. Traditional water governance
This definition helps to distinguish between forthcoming paper (an earlier draft is referenced structures respect the community norms and
governance, government and management, a below). We also discuss how the framework values that guide and inform how critical water
distinction sometimes blurred in the literature. can be applied in practice. This edition of id21 resources are consumed, managed, protected,
Government represents the formal structures insights provides examples of how different conserved and used. For example, local
through which the state orders its affairs, categories of resources (for example rights or responses to water scarcity show high levels of
including its water affairs. Management financial resources) are drawn on to develop cooperation and well-ordered social activity to
comprises the actual processes by which water specific mechanisms of access, with variable maintain and protect resources.
resources are allocated and delivered. Both outcomes for different groups of people. Customary laws are also important for
government and management form part of the conflict resolution. Evidence from rural South
wider system of governance which mediates Water Governance and Poverty: A Framework for Africa shows that traditional ways to settle
peoples’ access to water. Analysis, BCID Research Paper No.13, Frances Cleaver disputes can be very effective for disputes
and Tom Franks, 2005 (PDF) about water. This is also recognised by local magistrate courts. However, these traditional
An analytical framework ResearchPaper13CleaverFranks.pdf
Drawing on these concepts, we have means could conflict with the Water Tribunals
developed an analytical framework to help Effective water governance, TEC Background Paper that were established in the New Water Act.
No 7, Global Water Partnership, by Peter Rogers and So far, most water sector reforms have not
understand how arrangements for water Alan W. Hall, 2003 (PDF)
governance are shaped and how they impact given sufficient importance to customary laws.
on poor people. pdf207.pdf This research suggests:
l There is a need to improve our
understanding of the strengths of customary
Actors and agents water arrangements (whilst recognising their
(Stakeholders in water governance) weaknesses, such as gender inequality and
the limitations of elected leadership).
l New water governance measures should
build upon the strengths of customary water
laws and be designed from the ‘bottom-up’,
Resources Mechanisms Outcomes for through consultations with local people.
Non-material resources of access the poor l It is necessary to improve our understanding
such as institutions, (Specific (Gendered outcomes of possible negative impacts of new
social structures, rights arrangements of for poor people may be water governance legislation on individual
and entitlements, human resources shaping positive or negative) entitlements. For example, water licensing
attributes access to water) to individuals in South Africa’s former
homelands may erode the customary rights
Material resources of those who have no licenses.
such as the natural
environment, technology, Faustin P. Maganga
economic resources and Ecosystem Institute of Resource Assessment, University of Dar es
outcomes Salaam, P. O. Box 35097, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
human capacities
T + 255 22 2410144

See also
Processes The case studies and guidelines have been published
on the project website:
(Negotiation, decision-making and actions)

2 id21 insights 67 June 2007
Associations and Catchment Committees.
The question of scale These represent local water users, such as
domestic users and farmers. In addition,
At what level should governments manage water? South Africa also retained several regulatory
functions at the national level, including
The question of the appropriate scale or level at which governments should environmental reserve flows and policies for
operate has traditionally been important in political and economic discussions. international and strategic uses of water.
It has also become a key issue within development policy, with policymakers The South African Government is
thinking that this determines institutional effectiveness. exploring governance by addressing scale
and institutional coverage. By establishing
Similarly, the scale of governance has institutions, rather than a single institution multi-tiered structures, the South African
become an increasing preoccupation operating at one scale. This enables Water Act is trying to respond to the
in environmental management. each function to be carried out at the competing factors that influence the
However, many tensions exist between appropriate scale. This makes it possible appropriate scale for managing water.
different approaches to scale in to resolve the tensions between different Although enacted in 1998, policymakers
environmental management. These management scales. wisely envisaged a phased implementation.
tensions are considerable, but not always It is therefore too early to form a definite
acknowledged. The South African 1998 Water Act assessment of whether the arrangements
Approaches to scale include: South Africa’s 1998 Water Act created are working. However, there are some
l Within the social sciences, there management institutions ostensibly important implications to consider:
has been an increasing emphasis based on the ‘catchment’ scale. The l Contrary to some thinking in water
on the benefits of accountability Act established nineteen Catchment management, the boundaries for
and participation that come from Management Associations (CMAs) across management institutions should
decentralised and local management. South Africa (see diagram below). While not simply be based on catchment
This includes the management of based on watershed boundaries, none boundaries.
public services and natural resources. of these CMAs actually covers a single, l Implementation has already raised
l In environmental and conservation complete catchment. In some, several small debates over the relationship and
sciences, the emphasis has been on the catchments are combined into one CMA. distribution of management functions
need for management at increasingly This prevents the establishment of several between central institutions, CMAs and
large scales, so that whole ecosystem small, inefficient institutions. In others (for local institutions.
processes (such as predator-prey example the Upper, Middle and Lower
interactions) can continue. Vaal CMAs), the CMA covers only part Tom Le Quesne
WWF-UK, Panda House, Weyside Park,
l For economists, a key issue is of a catchment. This prevents the CMA Godalming GU7 1XR, UK
the minimum efficient scale – if becoming so large that it loses the benefits
management functions are carried out of accountability and participation. T +44 (0)1483 412054
by institutions on too small a scale, This multi-tiered system of water See also
they will be unnecessarily costly. management can link with other The analysis of Multi-tiered Natural Resource
In response to these tensions, systems and scales of government and Management Institutions, Doctor of Philosophy thesis,
University of Oxford, by Tom Le Quesne, 2005
environmental management is typically management. Several institutions exist
carried out by a system of multi-tiered below CMAs, including Water User

Catchment and Water 1 Limpopo 11 Mvoti to Umzimkulu

Management Areas under the
1998 Water Act
2 Luvuvhu and Letaba
3 Crocodile (West) and Marico
Mzimvubu to Keiskamma
Upper Orange
What do you
The 19 Water Management Areas 4 Olifants
5 Inkomati
Lower Orange
Fish to Tsitsikamma
established in South Africa will each
be administered by a multi-stakeholder 6 Usutu to Mhlatuze 16 Gouritz
7 Thukela 17 Olifants/Doorn Please write and tell us your
forum, a Catchment Management
Authority. Although based on catchment 8 Upper Vaal 18 Breede views about the issues raised
boundaries, none of the Water 9 Middle Vaal 19 Berg in id21 insights. And what
10 Lower Vaal
Management Areas precisely matches a topics would you like to read
W ASome
single catchment. T E Rcombine
M A Nseveral
small catchments, others cover a part of Z IM B A B W E
the larger Vaal/Orange system. M O Z A M B IQ U E Email with
BO TSW ANA 2. Luvuvhu your ideas.
Provincial Boundaries 1 . L im p o p o a n d L e ta b a MOZAMBIQUE
P ro v in c ia l Water Management Area Boundaries 1 2
B o u n d a rie s 4 . O lifa n ts
W a te r M a n a g e m e n t 3 . C r o c o d ile 4
A re a B o u n d a rie s BOTSWANA (W e s t) a n d
M3a r ic o P r e to r ia 5 . In k o m a ti Subscribe to
10. Low er Vaal
J o h a n n e s b u rg
l id21 insights
NAMIBIA 10 8. U pper
9 . M id d le Vaal 6 . U s u tu to If you would like to subscribe
V a a l9 8 M h la tu z e
SWAZILAND to id21 insights for free
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7 with your name and
1 4 . L o w e r O ra n g e 13. U pper
D u rb a n address.
O ran g e M v o ti to U m z im k u lu
13 l Durban Future topics include
14 11
O lifa n ts / 1 2 . M z im v u b u to
K e is k a m m a
n Cities and
D o o rn
17 12 climate change
1 5 . F is h to
19. T s its ik a m m a E ast London
B erg 1 6 . G o u r itz n Island economies
Cape 191 8 . P o r t E liz a b e th
Cape B reed e 16 n Maternal health
l 18
n Teachers
Source: Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, South Africa

id21 insights 67 3 June 2007

‘Rethinking the management Recovering the costs of rural

of agricultural water’
by Peter P. Mollinga water supply
Community initiatives in Nigeria
Read this article online
Inadequate water supply and poor
insights67/art08.html sanitation are serious
problems for rural
communities in Cross
River State, southern
Nigeria. Concern
Money matters Universal works with
Financially sustainable water these communities
supplies in rural Tanzania to strengthen their
capacity to manage
Only 45 percent of public water points water and sanitation
in central Tanzania are functioning. facilities.
Research in the Dodoma and Singida
regions shows that poor financial Surveys such as the 2006
management often undermines the Core Welfare Indicators
sustainable use of water. Questionnaire Survey
As a result, village water points are show that only 14
frequently abandoned because there are
percent of rural households have access to Community members with repaired boreholes
no savings available to pay for simple in Iyamayong, Obubra Local Government Area of
safe water sources; only 24 percent have
Cross River State in Nigeria
Many public water points in the two access to safe sanitation facilities. These Robin Todd, 2006
regions are managed by Village Water are among the lowest figures in southern
Committees (VWC). However, revenue Nigeria, and may be due to a historic lack
collection improved significantly in villages of investment by the federal and state operated by many sections of society. If these
that introduced a private operator (PO) to governments. services are to be maintained, governance
manage water points. The research shows: The role of non-governmental arrangements must provide for cost
l The PO model originated as a community organisations in water governance is to recovery. Cost recovery systems designed by
driven process. The first observed PO was facilitate community-led initiatives that communities are most effective, enabling
invited by villagers to operate the village
promote self reliance and equal access. This communities to sustain existing facilities while
water scheme because the community
was frustrated with the poor service is important in areas where communities still allowing widespread access to safe water.
levels achieved under VWCs. do not trust governments to protect their Practices vary between communities. Some
l POs have financial incentives to deliver interests, or fulfil their role as service introduced household levies for commercial
water to a community; they can keep providers and regulators. uses, such as moulding blocks or cooking rice
surplus revenue from water sales, after Since 2001, Concern Universal has for sale. On average, these were equivalent
giving an agreed sum to the village worked on projects in Cross River State to US$0.40 per household per month. In
water fund for maintenance and capital to increase the role of communities some places, community funds were used to
expenditure. POs have generated record in governing rural water supply and repair infrastructure breakdowns. People were
savings in the village water funds.
sanitation. Concern Universal has then charged ‘per bucket’ for water until
l Communities have benefited from an
improved water provision service. They
developed a model characterised by: the community water and sanitation bank
are also more able to cope with technical l designing community-based account was replenished. A portion of profits
failures in water points. management structures around existing from community-run ‘Sanicentres’ were also
It is important to regulate POs to avoid local institutions. For example, Age- used to repair breakdowns. However, no
profiteering, which is already evident in Grade systems help to ensure fair communities introduced charges ‘per-bucket’
some villages. Metering the volume of access. However, some traditional rulers as a standard cost recovery method.
water sold is essential to balance the take an active role in management, Concern Universal has identified policy
incentives of POs and the interests of which can reinforce existing inequalities implications for working with communities to
users. This process is notably absent from and patterns of resource control. manage water supplies:
the Dodoma and Singida regions, either
l total community self-reliance for l ‘One size fits all’ solutions to cost
by external agents or by the villagers
themselves. This issue must be addressed to borehole operations and maintenance. recovery are not appropriate; systems
ensure that POs do not overcharge villagers Concern Universal trained and should be based around normal
for their services. equipped men and women from community practices.
Rural Tanzania desperately needs each community to repair and l A community contribution is essential for
sustainable water supplies. In the regions maintain hand-pumps. This achieved sustainability, but it is the principle that
studied, POs represent an innovative and encouraging results, with almost 90 is important, not the actual method of
practical improvement to the financial percent of surveyed water points fully contribution.
management and service supply of public functional more than twelve months l To be sustainable, cost recovery
water points. However, their accompanying
after project completion. processes should cover annual operation
disadvantages must be recognised and
l sustainable low-cost solutions. Concern and maintenance costs.
Universal encouraged protecting
Robin Todd
Alexia Haysom natural springs (using a new method Concern Universal, 41 IBB Way, Calabar, Cross River State,
33 Charnley Drive, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, LS7 developed by Concern Universal’s Nigeria
4ST, UK partner GRADO) and repairing existing T +234 87238828
hand-pump boreholes instead of
See also drilling new boreholes. See also
The Technical Annex for the Jack Wright Memorial Core Welfare Indicator Questionnaire – Cross River State
Trust, by Alexia Haysom, September 2006 Summary, National Bureau of Statistics, 2006 (PDF)
(unpublished) Cost-recovery systems
Copies are available from the author on request. To deliver effective services, water Cross%20River.pdf
governance requires inter-related systems Annual Report 2005-6, Concern Universal-Nigeria, 2006

id21 insights 67 June 2007 4

Achieving water management organisation, instead of referring

to local practices for managing water. They
security also lacked participatory approaches during
design and implementation. Nevertheless,
Water security means people have secure there are ongoing efforts in Bolivia to
rights to use water, including future improve participatory approaches between
generations. For poor people, this comes local government, designers, implementing
from fair and adequate representation engineers and farmers, which should improve
in policymaking processes. They also water rights security for poor people.
need improved water technology, and
management processes that they can use. The way ahead
There are many challenges to achieving Our power to challenge any faulty consensus
secure water rights, in which politics, about water security and governance policies
institutions, participation and the role of comes through being better advisers. This
advisers are central issues. Irrigators in Punata, Bolivia, whose water includes our critical teaching and training,
application is supported by good local water our independent field research and the
Challenges to water security governance. development of alternative ideas for public
Not everyone agrees about how governance Gerben Gerbrandy, 2006 action over water. Improving water security
should address contemporary water security requires ‘understanding from below’ – how
issues. In Neuquen, Argentina, a Water User often ‘top-down’, focusing on newly defined, different groups manage their water use
Community group was created to resolve tradable rights. This ‘top-down’ focus is often and how to work with them. This is more
struggles over water availability and river at odds with existing land and water rights. For important than advocating specific governance
degradation. However, they were forced to example, after a new Water Code was passed and management models lifted from other
reform because appointed representatives did in Chile in 1981, indigenous communities were locations.
not represent the interests of everyone. For unaware of the need to register their rights. As
example, there were struggles over which data a result, these rights were declared ‘unused’ and Linden Vincent
sets should be used to set governance agendas. reallocated to commercial companies and bigger Irrigation and Water Engineering Group, Wageningen
University, P.O. Box 47, 6700AA Wageningen, the
This shows that governance evolves through landlords. Indigenous groups had little chance to
political struggles and negotiation, rather than regain their rights, greatly reducing their water
‘blue print’ models. security. This shows the need for flexibility and T +031 317 484195 F +31 317 484759
monitoring when intervening in new governance
Institutional practices and models approaches, so that changes can be made and See also
Many governance models and ‘best’ practices impacts mitigated. Politics, Institutions and Participation, Seminar 3 in
the ‘Water Governance: Challenging the Consensus’
create new problems, rather than enhancing seminar series, 2006
water security. For example, some irrigation Participation in new models
and water supply policies promote privatisation To overcome these challenges in building Politics, Institutions and Participation in Water
and public-private partnerships. However, by complementary and effective new institutions, Governance, paper from Seminar 5 in the ‘Water
increasing charges, these can actually reduce governance models to secure water rights should Governance: Challenging the Consensus’ seminar
series, by Linden Vincent, 2006
access to water for poor people and often fail use participatory approaches. In Bolivia, previous
to improve service conditions. projects to improve community irrigation systems Riego campesino y diseño compartido, Quito: IEP
Processes to determine water rights are also often recommended new ‘blue-print’ models for Ediciones, by Z. Gutiérrez, 2006

Water rights people who are wealthier, better educated

and politically more powerful.
There are calls from some researchers to
register formalised water rights in the same
for water Policymakers should pay more attention
to property rights for water resources at
way as land rights, and separated from
them. This would promote investment and
governance the ‘river end’. It is at the water source
that competition for water resources in
trading, attract more capital for funding
water infrastructure, and encourage the
Opportunities and challenges of bulk occurs. This is competition between reallocation of water to ‘higher economic
regulation in developing countries water-using sectors (such as urban users, value’ uses (such as irrigation).
agriculture and industry) and between However, other researchers favour
Rights and entitlements at the societal water users within each sector. For settling competing claims over water access
level are some of the resources for example, permissions to abstract water through negotiation. These processes are
water governance. Viewing water from surface and ground water sources are dynamic and gradual, often advancing
rights from a legal perspective helps commonly formed as property rights (and through trial and error. Supporters of
to analyse the policy debate on rights may be granted for long periods). this approach caution against the abrupt
of access to water. There are three The third legal form of rights is introduction of formalisation systems into
principal legal forms of a right to water contractual: the right to water under developing countries. These formalised
– a human right, a property right and a contracts for supply of water services. rights are conceived in developed countries,
contractual right. These exist between a service provider but the capacity to administer and regulate
(public or private) and a user, or household them in developing countries is limited,
‘Tap end’ or ‘river end’ right? of users. The nature of contractual rights with greater risk of political capture by
Debates on water rights tend to focus and obligations depends on each contract’s powerful interest groups.
on water services and the human right terms in the specific country or municipal
Tom Slaymaker and Peter Newborne
of access to water supply at the ‘tap context, including how the rights are Overseas Development Institute, 111 Westminster
end’. However, research by the Overseas regulated. Bridge Road, London, SE1 7JD, UK
Development Institute in the UK on the
liberalisation of markets in water services Regulating ‘river end’ rights
has highlighted that, in many developing Existing empirical studies show contrasting Sources
countries, domestic regulation of water approaches to river-end property rights in Water and the GATS: Mapping the Trade-Development
access is insufficiently developed or absent Interface, Briefing Paper, Overseas Development
water. In some instances, many international Institute, October 2005 (PDF)
altogether. agencies promote formalised water rights
As a result, attempts to ‘fast-track’ to govern access to water resources. These GATS.pdf
regulation are likely to go badly wrong. are centrally administered systems of Right to Water: Legal Forms, Political Channels, Briefing
Paper, Overseas Development Institute, July 2004 (PDF)
Without strong regulation, there is a regulatory rules and procedures to decide
danger of ‘political capture’: bias towards between competing claims over water. right_to_water.pdf

5 id21 insights 67 June 2007
Competition for water Useful web links
Are water riots a greater threat than water wars?
Basin Water Management – International Water Management
There is considerable literature on international water Institute research theme
negotiations, but most research ignores local conflicts over
water. In fact, violent ‘water riots’ at local levels are more index.asp
common than inter-state ‘water wars’.
Gender and Water Alliance
Over the past decade, policy debates have increasingly associated
water scarcity with conflict. This is at the international level
Global Water Partnership
(conflicts or wars between nations sharing the resource) and at
national and local levels (conflicts or tensions over water access
and use between different users and sectors). However, water- International Water Association
related conflicts are caused not just by scarcity, but by how access
to water is governed.
Public Services International Research Unit
Flashpoints for local level conflict
Privatising the water supply sector has created significant disputes. United Nations Development Programme: Water Governance
Where government agencies are handing over service provision Facility
to private water companies, the potential for unequal service
provision is high. This is particularly true where regulations
to control prices are not in place or inadequately enforced. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
This causes conflict over unequal access or increased prices.
Furthermore, where one company has a monopoly to provide Water Aid
water services, tensions arise with small-scale independent
In Latin America and Africa, the lack of affordable water World Bank – Water Resources Management
access for vulnerable groups (such as poor urban people, small
farmers, women and girls) has sparked confrontation between
World Water Council
local communities and authorities. Even where communities or
private water supplies have improved water access, conflicts
have sometimes arisen between water managers and those who
previously supplied water, such as travelling water vendors. This is
due to the lack of sufficient regulation. some groups win and others lose. Policy and programme designs
A recent study conducted for the World Bank’s Water and should therefore include:
Sanitation Programme, Africa (WSP-AF) in Mukuru slums, Nairobi, l mapping existing groups and resources (human, technical and
found evidence of violence between illegally connected water financial)
vendors and metered vendors linked to the water utility. This l community consultations about water access and allocation
occurred after the utility introduced a new water supply system l conflict-impact assessments and conflict resolution
within this slum without prior community consultations and mechanisms
involvement. Another study undertaken for UN-HABITAT showed l adequate compensation for communities whose water access
that even pro-poor water governance structures cause tensions is disrupted
if they are ineffective. For example, if local authorities and water l enforcable regulations for privatised water suppliers to control
utilities fail to provide water supply and sanitation services, this prices, water quality and quantity.
creates tension between them and poor urban people.
Rose Osinde and Mandy Turner
Rose Osinde, P.O Box 28767, Nairobi 00200, Kenya
Managing local water conflicts or
Direct violent conflicts over water are now more likely to occur Mandy Turner, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, BD7 1DP, UK
at the local level than the inter-state level. Deficits in local access T +44 (0)1274 234776 or
and supply are mainly rooted in institutions and political choices
governed by unequal power relations. There is still a huge lack See also
of understanding about local level governance. This means that ‘Conflict Prevention and Access to Fresh Water in Sub-Saharan Africa’, by V. Boege
and M. Turner in Conflict Prevention, Management and Reduction in Africa, Ministry
vulnerable groups, which have the weakest rights and no political for Foreign Affairs of Finland: Development Policy Information Unit, edited by
voice, often lose out to more powerful groups. J. Buxton, O. Greene and C. Salonius-Pasternak, 2006
To ease these power differentials, it is necessary to develop an An Assessment of the Activities of Small-scale Providers of Water and Sanitation in
Nairobi’s Informal Settlements, Water and Sanitation Program-Africa Region: WSP-AF
effective pro-poor approach to water governance that can have an commissioned study, by Rose Osinde, 2005
impact at local levels. This requires acknowledging that, currently,

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Keywords: community initiatives, conflict, customary laws, governance, participation, rights, water, water governance, water security

id21 insights 67 June 2007 6