Forms of Local Irrigation Management

Although WUAs are the main form of user management of irrigation water, other approaches are being explored. In the above-mentioned case of Shaanxi Province in China, the following additional forms are being utilized, in addition to WUAs and the model of user ownership of the system through share holdings:

183. Doug Vermillion, 'Impacts of Irrigation Management Transfer: Results from IIMI's Research', INPIM Newsletter, No. 7, April 1998, p. 3.

184. Quoted in David Groenfeldt (Compiler), Handbook on Participatory Irrigation Management, The Economic Development Institute, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA, April 1998, p. 2 [emphasis added].

Contracts. The government agency which owns the irrigation infrastructure, and has traditionally been responsible for its operation and maintenance, signs a contract with an individual (usually a local farmer, or former agency staff member). The agency retains property rights for the infrastructure within the Irrigation District. The rights and responsibility for managing the system, however, are transferred to the contractor. The contractor will operate and maintain the system for a fixed time period, usually 10 to 30 years. The contractor makes all water management decisions, and he is solely responsible for profits and losses of the contract. In most cases, the agency requires the contractor to invest a specified amount of money to line and improve the laterals and sub-laterals. They also require the contractor to deliver a fixed volume of water. The contractor must pay a penalty if he does not deliver the expected volume. The contractor determines the services fees that farmers pay for irrigation, within a range established by the agency. He must also collect the water fees and pass them on to the local irrigation agency. In turn, the agency pays him a management fee that was agreed upon by the contract.185

Lease. A lease is a slight modification of the contract system. It is generally applied only when the irrigation infrastructure is in relatively good condition.. . . without requiring the contractor to make a significant investment. .. .

Auction. The auction model is used extensively in Jinghuiqu District. ... It is a variation on the contract model where the local irrigation agency 'pre-qualifies' three or four contractors to bid on the operation and maintenance contract for the lateral canal. . ..

Water supply companies. In contrast to the above models [including WUAs and joint stockholder companies] that are primarily focused on one or two laterals, water supply companies cover a branch or sub-branch and therefore serve all the laterals that take water off the branch. This can include up to 20 laterals. In most cases to date, water supply companies have used the joint stockholder model in order to raise the large investments that are required to improve the branch canal and its multiple laterals. Shares in the company are usually sold to farmers, staff of the irrigation station, and local government officials, with some restriction on the number of shares that any investor can hold. .. .186

For WUAs, a major question in defining their roles concerns the level in the system at which farmer responsibility for O & M ends and government responsibility starts, or continues. In small systems, farmers can be owners of the entire system, as noted previously, but this solution is more difficult to implement in larger systems, and so normally a division of labor is specified under which the government is responsible for main canals and the farmers for tertiary systems. The range of options is wide:

(1) Government does everything. In Malaysia, the Department of Irrigation and Drainage provides for the operation and maintenance of the main and secondary canals, while government sponsored farmers' organizations are responsible for providing water to individual farms. Farmers have no responsibility, and make no management decisions, about the water upstream from their outlets.

(2) State dominates; users help. The conventional management division in large irrigation systems is that the State takes responsibility for operation and maintenance of the headworks such as a dam or river diversion, and the main, secondary and larger tertiary canals, while farmers are responsible for managing water distribution and maintenance along the lowest level canals. Typically this entails farmer groups

185. This model is similar to the one of franchising rights to operate publicly constructed irrigation facilities noted by Rosegrant and Binswanger, 1994, and cited above.

186. 'Six Irrigation Managment Models from Guanzhong', op. cit., 2001, pp. 8-9.

of between 10 and 50 farm families who are expected to work out sharing arrangements on their own.

(3) Users dominate; State facilitates. In some countries, associations of water users enter into contractual agreements with State water agencies for the provision of specific water services. In the case of Mexico, the National Water Commission manages the headworks and main canals, while legally recognized water users associations employ their own technical staff for the management of the secondary and tertiary levels of the canal networks. Farmers pay their associations for the water, and a small portion of that fee is passed on to the National Water Commission for its services.

(4) Farmers do everything. In the Hill regions of Nepal most of the irrigated area is in the hands of local communities who have constructed their own canal systems, generally tapping small stream flows. Similar examples of local, farmer-managed systems can be found in nearly every country where irrigation is important. . . .187

Meinzen-Dick et al. (1997, p. 58) propose a more succinct but somewhat finer categorization of the options for joint management:

• Full agency control

• Shared management

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