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Irrigation systems as multiple-use commons: Water use in Kirindi Oya, Sri Lanka

Listed author(s):
  • Ruth Meinzen-Dick
  • Margaretha Bakker

Irrigation systems are recognized as common pool resources supplying water for agricultural production, but their role in supplying water for other uses is often overlooked. The importance of non-agricultural uses of irrigation water in livelihood strategies has implications for irrigation management and water rights, especially as increasing scarcity challenges existing water allocation mechanisms. This paper examines the multiple uses of water in the Kirindi Oya irrigation system in Sri Lanka, who the users are, and implications for water rights and management policies. There are important residential, gender, and class differences among the water users. People use irrigation system water not only for field crops, but also for fishing, homestead gardens, and livestock. Even within irrigated farming households, men have more control over paddy crops in the main fields, whereas homestead gardens are women's domain. Because the irrigation system provides water for birds and animals, even wildlife and non-resident environmental groups can be considered stakeholders. Current policies emphasize user involvement in both irrigation and domestic water supply. While government agencies have had primary responsibility, institutions such as Farmers' Organizations are being promoted. These have the potential to serve as user platforms for negotiating water allocation among irrigated farmers. However, the user organizations reflect the sectoral responsibility of the government agencies. Their membership and structure do not take into account the multiple uses or users of water. Developing platforms that accommodate different user groups remains a major challenge for improving the overall productivity, as well as equity, of water use. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

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Article provided by Springer & The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS) in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

Volume (Year): 16 (1999)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 281-293

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Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:16:y:1999:i:3:p:281-293
DOI: 10.1023/A:1007507918459
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  1. Edella Schlager & Elinor Ostrom, 1992. "Property-Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 68(3), pages 249-262.
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