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Institutional measures

The key elements of IWRM are institutional measures that include

  • Organizations
  • Systems of incentives and rules.


Institutional measures coordinate activities of people on the way of achieving objectives set before the society, particularly, to ensure more desirable water use. Broad institutional measures aimed at water saving (ownership rights, pricing policy, ) are expedient only in places, where water is rare and highly valued.

Organizations can be in form of hierarchies (public or private bureaucratic structures) or voluntary associations. They exist in water supply systems on both the demand side (users) and the supply side (allocation).

Usually, on the supply side, we find the public bureaucratic structures, such as ministries, basin water organizations (BWO), provincial and district water management organizations, inter-district canal administrations, etc. that control diversion, storage, delivery and distribution of water from irrigation sources. Those structures, as a rule, does not always accountable before water users for quantity and quality of water delivered.

Under centralized approach to water management, organizations on the supply side are usually established according to the administrative principle. In opposite, decentralized method is characterized by hydro-geographical approach, which ignores administrative boundaries.

Under centralized method of water management, water organizations lack divisions that could implement the public participation principle. Therefore, it is necessary to establish and incorporate into the water sector the bodies of joint water governance, i.e. participatory water governance.

At present, attempts are made in water sector practices to overcome that shortcoming; however, it is implemented in such a way that those attempts fail or their effect is very weak.

Systems of incentives and rules

Systems of incentives and rules affect individuals behavior to act in such a way that otherwise they would not do. Those can be in different forms. One of them is financial one, which makes leverage through penalties and encouragement via money reward.

Effective material and moral incentives are required for better water management. The incentives tools include charging for water and competitions between organizations. However, currently, both irrigators and water user do not have incentives for water saving and better irrigation services:

  • State water management organizations, WMO (in the context of water charges) and WUA cannot be interested in water saving as financial receipts for water services provided by WMO and WUA, in essence, depend on quantity of delivered (sold) water the smaller quantity of water is delivered, the lower fee will be collected for irrigation services.
  • Farmers are not interested in water saving as charges for water services provided by WUA and WMO are taken on hectare basis, i.e. this does not depend on quantity of water received by farmer.

WMOs also have no material incentives for better quality of water delivery (i.e. more stable and equitable). Besides, there are also problems with incentives for energy saving in the area of pumping irrigation.

The system of competition between WMOs and inside one WMO, widely practiced in the Soviet period, now has not been working. Last time, competition in CAR in the water-related sphere took place as part of a GEF project in 1998-2000.

Another form is the combination of rules that enable or restrict certain behavior of people in the water use process. The rules include both informal customs and traditions and official laws and regulations that shape behaviors and promote appropriate ones.

WMOs maintain their activities on the basis of rules that include water use rating, control, priority setting, proportionality (social equity), biological optimality, rotation, consideration of all kinds of water (surface water, groundwater, return water) and users, and taking into account of natural conditions.

Author: Mirzaev N.N., SIC ICWC

Selected bibliography