by Delgollage Senevirathne, Assistant General Manager (Sociologist) at the National Water Supply & Drainage Board (NWSDB), Sri Lanka.
NWSDB is an RWSN Member Organisation. To find out more visit the RWSN main website.
(13) Community ownership and responsibilities for modern water resources management
Community ownership of water resources is not envisaged. However, the water resources can be allocated in bulk form according to agreed quantities as per a river basin plan for water resources allocation to community managed piped water supply schemes and Irrigation schemes at secondary and tertiary level.
The Community Based Organizations will be held responsible for managing the water allocated in bulk among individual users by ensuring equitable allocations are distributed among individual users.
They also have a responsibility to maintain good quality water and should participate in consultations for decision making process at village and district / divisional and provincial levels.
They also need to be associated with river basin committees where decisions are made in allocation of water resources for development projects for new water supply schemes and irrigation schemes particularly concerning water diversion schemes that may affect their water allocation rights that have been already granted. They also can play a role in common issues such as maintenance of watershed protection and conservation programmes and environmental flows and sand mining issues and over-extraction of groundwater etc.
Community partnerships will also be required to maintain demand management measures such as reduction of water use when there is shortage in supply levels to enable equitable use of water through awareness creation, application of technology transfer programmes in efficiency improvements, application of associated regulations, imposition of self rule in reduction of water use etc.
Complex nature of behavior of water resource being a natural moving resource which is dependent on the rainfall pattern that is varying on space and time while the groundwater resource is dependent on the permeability of the soil conditions and types of aquifers subjected to fluctuations in water quality.
Hence water resource use will have to be managed both in terms of quantity and quality characteristics and parameters through continuous monitoring programmes that will provide a useful and a reliable data base and information required for decision making relating to water allocation for different uses. The information so collected through technical, social and economic approaches will have to be subjected to decision making through consultations and feedback mechanism that will be directed to decisions on different types of uses/ users.
As water is the life sustaining ingredient of not only of the humans but also of fauna and flora and is a limiting resource, social aspects play a closer role in water resource management. As indicated above, conditions of floods and droughts affect socio-economic lives of the affected population thus prevention measures are to be identified as precautionary approaches to sustain lives.