IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Water rights and multiple water uses: framework and application to Kirindi Oya irrigation system, Sri Lanka


  • Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela
  • Bakker, Margaretha


The growing attention to water rights in recent years reflects the increasing scarcity and competition for this vital resource. Because rights are at the heart of any water allocation system, they are also critical for any reallocation. Not only efficiency, but also fundamental issues of equity are at stake. To understand water rights requires going beyond formal statutory law (which may or may not be followed), to look at the many bases for claiming water. Because of the vital nature of this resource, state law, religious law, customary law and local norms all have something to say in defining water rights. The delineation of water rights is further complicated when we take into consideration multiple uses (irrigation, domestic, fishing, livestock, industries, etc.) as well as multiple users (different villages, groups of farmers in the head and tail, fishermen, cattle owners, etc.) of the resource. These overlapping uses bring in different government agencies, as well as different sets of norms and rules related to water. This paper provides a framework for examining the statutory and customary water rights of multiple users of water and applies it in the Kirindi Oya irrigation system in Sri Lanka, based on a multidisciplinary study conducted in 1997-1998. It demonstrates that the range of stakeholders with an interest in water resources of an irrigation system go far beyond the owners and cultivators of irrigated fields. As such, these groups are not only claimants on the ongoing management of water resource systems, but also need to be included in any considerations of transferring water from irrigation to other uses.

Suggested Citation

  • Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela & Bakker, Margaretha, 2000. "Water rights and multiple water uses: framework and application to Kirindi Oya irrigation system, Sri Lanka," EPTD discussion papers 59, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:eptddp:59

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Easter, K. William & Smith, Rodney B.W., 2002. "Do Missing Institutional Arrangements Block Enlargement Of Water Markets?," Working Papers 14405, University of Minnesota, Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy.
    2. Gebremedhin, B. & Peden, D., 2003. "Policies and institutions to enhance the impact of irrigation development in mixed crop-livestock systemsLength: pp.168-184," Conference Papers h032460, International Water Management Institute.
    3. Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela & Pradhan, Rajendra, 2002. "Legal pluralism and dynamic property rights:," CAPRi working papers 22, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fpr:eptddp:59. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.