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The authority and ability of any state to regulate, allocate and control its water resources depend primarily on whether the state has in place a legal framework for dealing with water resources, and if it does, what approach such a framework prescribes for ownership and allocation of water. This framework could be a water law, as in most states, administrative or executive decrees or regulations, customary or traditional law, or court decisions. Increasingly, states are making explicit references in their constitutions to their water resources and the need to manage them properly and efficiently, and may even lay down some basic principles on management and allocation. In a number of constitutions and laws of federal states, provisions are included clarifying the responsibilities of each of the federal and provincial or state governments over water resources management, and laying down procedures for resolution of inter-states water disputes.

The Environmental and International Law Unit of the World Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency has been working on water law for some time. We assist countries in reviewing and commenting on draft water laws, or revisions to such laws. Our advice also extends to water institutions, including the establishment of water users associations (WUAs), their bylaws and the transfer agreements between the WUAs and the Irrigations Agency. It has also covered groundwater regulations when such regulations are enacted separately from the water law.

In addition, The Environmental and International Law Unit of the World Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency assists with interpretation of international water treaties, particularly in connection with application of OP 7.50.  The Unit also assists the different units within the Bank on the facilitative initiatives involving international waters. 

The Water Partnership Program finances a wide range of activities in the water sector under different windows. One of those windows deals with Water Resources Legislation and National Strategies. This window has financed a number of activities dealing with the preparation of water legislation and the establishment and operation of water users associations. Such financing included preparation and review of the draft legislation, as well as consultation workshops. Another window deals with international waters and has financed various activities in this field.

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Last updated: 2009-06-25

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