Equity, water and secure tenure in water allocations

This workshop will reflect on the role of tenure in water governance and security. It will build on the work undertaken in a proof of concept study for FAO (2014) where the concept was tested in three countries that have semi-arid conditions: Spain, South Africa and India. In Fortaleza with a special emphasis will be given to establish a dialogue with the experience in the Latin American region.


Tenure arrangements determine how people, communities and organizations gain access to the use of natural resources (Hogson, 2015). In particular water tenure is defined as ‘the relationship, whether legally or customarily defined people, as individuals or groups, with respect to water resources’. The main focus in this workshop is to see how tenure (both land and water) can provide a useful platform for addressing the main world’s water resources challenges. In particular the issue of water and equity of water to ensure a secure future in scarcity conditions and increased competition on the resource.The Discovery film


Under increased conditions of water scarcity triggered on the one hand by increased competition for water resources and on the other, uncertainty due to increased hydrological variability and extreme events due to effects of climate change much more pressure will be put on the security of tenure, as well as current and future winners and losers. Thus equity and tenure become central to the discussion.


The added value -as seen from the preliminary results from the analysis of tenure – is that it offers a new platform for discussion. It focuses on the evolving relationship of people with water, which brings onto the table all uses, including some normally excluded like informal use or the issue of environmental flows. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the current allocation system while considering future trends like population growth, the need for human development, the uncertainty of climate change changing the resource base or the importance of criteria like equity in decisions made by e.g. public bodies which often capacity and governance issues to take clear decisions or to follow up with the implementation of roles and rules. In addition, tenure is closely related and yet not the same as rights. It starts from the premise that tenure is a social relationship which can be formalized into law or not. Thus it recognizes evolving social relationships created under both formal and customary law.


The role of tenure in water governance, particularly in semi-arid contexts will be explored giving special attention to:

  • Discuss how we can have flexible arrangements for water allocations to cope with evolving social needs and priorities, while at the same time providing a secure resource base
  • How do we speed up a more equitable access and use of water to empower women?.
  • What criteria and implementation tools are available in the context of new rival uses particularly under conditions of scarcity and extreme events?.
  • How can we focus on the micro scale equity issues i.e. users at basin scale? Can tenure provide a lens to understand drivers and intervention points to speed up and generate more equitable outcomes?
  • How do we include the environment into the equity frame when there are so many short term pressures and no proper costing of environmental externalities? Does tenure add value to this debate?

The focus of the session will be particularly focused in areas which are already facing water scarcity and there is a need to make clear allocation choices. The session will be made of reflecting on tenure and equity issues in a number of countries; South Africa, Spain, India, Australia and Brazil through short pitch style presentations followed by a dialogue on main issues.

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