Groundwater use rights enforcement monitoring and sanctions

The implementation and effectiveness of a groundwater use right crucially depends on enforcement capacity, sanctioning systems, water reallocation mechanisms and the need for the generation of information and its management. There is also an important linkage to pricing mechanisms (see the following section).

As mentioned earlier a key issue in groundwater management is the size of the groundwater user community. Groundwater aquifers can be very small, with only tens or hundreds of users, such as is the case for some aquifers in Mexico, California and South Africa. It is very well conceivable that users would be able to arrive at a joint management framework, even without individual property rights. As pointed out by Shah et al. (2000), many aquifers, especially in Asia, have thousands of users. In that case, it is far more difficult to envision one integrated framework at the 'community level', and obviously transaction costs for both introducing and maintaining any groundwater framework increase significantly (see also Table 8.1). In such cases, submanagement structures around subaquifer units are required. The many groundwater recharge movements in India show that even if recharge and water savings do not take place across an entire large aquifer, the local impacts can be beneficial.3

For groundwater use rights to function as management instruments, the following need to be in place:

• initial allocation;

• registration mechanism and maintained registry system;

• functioning monitoring system;

• enforcement of the limits set by the individual or communal use rights;

• credible sanctioning system.

All of the above, i.e. the individual design and the implementation, depends on the aquifer and on local or national institutional capacity. Sandoval (2004) and Jacobs and Holway (2004) describe how the administrative systems are organized in the states of Guanajuato (Mexico) and Arizona (USA), respectively, and how these states have designed their groundwater management systems around existing capacity. In the case of Arizona, the state groundwater management agency is far stronger than the one in Guanajuato. Accordingly, in

Guanajuato an approach has been taken that strongly relies on local groundwater user groups in order to complement and enforce the groundwater permit administrative system. These examples show the local nature of designing systems to suit local conditions.

In summary, groundwater use rights are essential to provide incentives for better groundwater management, but perhaps even more than with surface water, they need to be designed in a flexible and locally adapted manner to allow for local needs and circumstances. For this, the characteristics of the aquifer, individual or common property right cultures, different lengths of validity of the rights, formality and informality as well as transferability need to be taken into account.

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