An Introduction to Water Tenure


Water tenure can be important to integrate in approaches such as integrated water resource management (IWRM), which is defined by the Global Water Partnership as, “a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.” For instance, incorporating an analysis of water tenure arrangements within a broader IWRM strategy can provide important information, such as whether current tenure arrangements balance the needs of water users with the health of the natural environment; how water access rights could change seasonally or during drought periods; how linked these arrangements are to land ownership and tenure; which may create incentives related to sustainable or unsustainable use, and how flexible these arrangements are to changing water demands and allocation patterns.

Analyzing water tenure can complement water accounting by highlighting the real-world,  “on-the-ground” relationships and arrangements that determine water use. Integrating this practical understanding into IWRM may also help promote nature-based solutions and reduce conflicts.

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