• WUA ownership, agency regulation
• Full WUA control
As suggested by these quotations, the operational question is at what intermediate point the responsibility passes from one party to another. Another kind of solution can involve promoting federations of WUAs. In North Africa and the Middle East, for example:
In public irrigation schemes, water users associations (WUAs) are being promoted (e.g. in Tunisia and Morocco) and have been successfully introduced in many other parts of the world. Generally, their responsibilities have been limited to the O&M of tertiary systems. In some countries, water user associations are federated for O&M of larger canals and for participation in overall system management, and the potential for full transfer of smaller public schemes can often be considered.188
Forming federations of WUAs has been pursued vigorously in Argentina:
Traditional irrigation associations in Mendoza covered 100 to 500 hectares but were not large enough to meet the associated costs. Maintenance was insufficient, the administration was weak, and those at the head of the canal ben-efitted the most. The situation changed when the small associations merged into larger ones of between 5 000 and 15 000 hectares. Twenty-one new organizations were formed, covering 200000 hectares. Each organization is autonomous, raises its own budget, and issues its own regulations in accord with the recently enacted water law. The organization hires professional managers to deal with all administrative matters, such as water delivery, cost recovery, and maintenance. Administrative costs decreased with the decline in the number of associations. The larger organizations have increased the efficiency of conveyance by 10 percent through more efficient distribution.189
The link between forming federations of WUAs and achieving more equitable distribution of water has been brought out clearly in Rice's study of South East Asian systems:
The study shows that equitable treatment is less evident on the longer tertiaries and among
tertiary systems on the same distributary. Headend command areas, rather than headend farmers, present the greatest challenge to fair distribution. At this level, associations and formal federations of primary WUAs can make a substantial difference. Note that at Lam Pao [in Thailand], as the associations of water user groups sharing the same secondary canals gain strength, the functions and prominence of the watercourse WUAs tend to diminish. This is predictable, because once the association of WUA leaders has determined an appropriate formula for sharing water or a cleaning schedule, meetings at the lower level can be dispensed with. The turnover of O & M responsibility from agencies to irrigators in coming years will have to focus on these systems of tertiaries.190
In broader terms:
. . . The allocation of functions between agencies and WUAs . . . varies between levels of the system. A greater degree of agency control is generally found at higher levels of the system, with a greater WUA role at lower levels. However, the exact division of responsibility varies widely between countries. ... At the main system level users may have input in decision making . . . but the agency retains a strong regulatory, ownership and O&M role. Some smaller systems . .. recognize WUA ownership of even the main system. Shared management is frequently found at the subsystem or distributary level, either through planned sharing of O&M responsibility or through farmers informally taking on some tasks. Management transfer programs in larger systems have generally provided for eventual WUA ownership and O&M responsibility only at the subsystem or distributary level.
Below the lowest outlet, at the watercourse level, agency involvement is usually minimal. .. . Unfortunately, unless the farmers have been adequately involved in the design and construction process, they often do not acknowledge ownership of or ongoing responsibility for the watercourses, and unless they have some degree of control over water deliveries from the main system, ownership at the watercourse level has little value.191
The general principle is that the turnover of responsibility doesn't depend on the volume of water but on the kind of user. If downstream of a given point the only use is irrigation, then that is the point where the responsibility of farmers would start, irrespective of the area irrigated and the chosen institutional form: a WUA, a federation of WUAs, etc. While in Asia often WUAs deal only with tertiary canals, in Latin America it is not uncommon for WUAs to manage an entire system downstream of the main canal's river intake. It is important to note that sometimes these systems cover 50000ha and even up to 100000ha. Institutional arrangements vary according to the characteristics of the transfer process. In Peru, every irrigation district has its own WUA (Junta de Usuarios) which in turn is divided into irrigators' commissions (Comisiones de Regantes), with each one managing a secondary canal. In Mexico, WUAs (Módulos de Riego) are in charge of secondary canals and they are brought together in federations (in corporate form) at the district level for the management of the main canal.
The continuing role of the State under any arrangement with WUAs is illustrated by the case of Chile:
Users' associations in Chile have been empowered and have taken on a wide range of functions, but the State's role remains clearly defined in performing adjudication functions, such as in cases where applications for water rights involve a natural water source, and in resolving highly controversial internal conflicts, as in reaching agreements regarding the allocation of water during extended dry spells. Even when the State is not called in on disputes, the
190. E. B. Rice, 1997, pp. 54-55 [emphasis in original].
191. R. Meinzen-Dick, et al, 1997, pp. 58, 62 and 64 [emphasis in original].
Meinzen-Dick et al. comment also on the question of farmer ownership of irrigation systems, which was raised in the earlier section on water pricing:
Ownership of irrigation system assets provides a clear combination of rights and responsibilities. The most important types of irrigation property include structures, equipment, water, and other assets (such as fish or trees). Ownership is based on investment in at least part of the capital costs, and implies a commitment to bearing the property's full recurrent costs. At the same time, it provides greater control over the property and the rights to earn income from it, which improves incentives for management. While in most cases the State claims ownership of both the facilities and the water rights, WUA ownership is found in many traditional farmer-managed systems. It is also incorporated into an increasing number of turnover programs. . . . The assignment of property rights to WUAs as a management transfer strategy can increase local responsibility and incentives for system O&M. Where it is infeasible - for practical or political reasons - to give WUAs ownership, assigning clear rights (such as the right to exclude others or to make binding decisions) should be pursued as a way to strengthen WUAs and the effectiveness of system management (from R Meinzen-Dick, et al., 1997, p. 61 [emphasis in original]).
potential for State intervention is influential in persuading users to reach agreement.192
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