[Anonymous].  2006.  Bolivia- Multiple use systems in Chaupisuyo, Sipe Sipe.

This report of an irrigation-plus approach analyses irrigation systems in the Sipe Sipe area and how these have been designed and modified technically, institutionally, and financially, to support other productive uses and domestic supply for improved livelihoods.

[Anonymous].  Submitted.  Documento de caso Cajamarca.

Contiene el caso de estudio desarrollado en Cajamarca en el municipio de Roldanillo (Valle del Cauca - Colombia)

[Anonymous].  Submitted.  Colombia- Multiple uses of water in the Cajamarca irrigation system.

The villages of Cajamarca and San Isidro, located in the municipality of Roldanillo in the Cauca Valley of Colombia, are supplied with water from two systems. Both systems are gravity-fed piped water supplies that tap perennial mountain streams. One is primarily for irrigation, and supplies both villages. The other is primarily for domestic use, but only supplies Cajamarca. Both systems, however, are actually used for a combination of domestic and productive uses. They play a vital role in the livelihoods of the 700 people living in the two communities, which as a result, are relatively prosperous. The two systems are managed by the same community-based case studywater organization.

The aqueducto (the domestic system) was developed in two phases (1954 and 1995), both with the external financial investment of the government. The current system includes an intake about 5 km above the valley, a compact treatment plant, storage tank, a pvc piped network, and household connections for all the families in Cajamarca. San Isidro, a newer settlement at higher elevation, is not supplied by the system.

The compact treatment plant is probably not the ideal technology for this community, being costly and difficult to run and the operators have not been trained. As a result, the quality of water supplied by the system is poor. Most people however, express satisfaction with the water quality. Users of the irrigation system in San Isidro boil the water from this system when it is used for domestic purposes, and in fact, the users of the domestic system in Cajamarca may be putting themselves at more risk as they believe this water to be safer (and fewer boil it) when in fact it is not.

The irrigation system that serves both villages and nearly all households, constructed in 1996, is also a piped network with storage and connections (a single time) near the boundary of each farm plot. This system was also built with government investment. Sprinklers are used by most farmers to irrigate profitable horticultural crops like pepper, tomato, and cabbage, although recently some farmers have also adopted drip irrigation. Neither, the domestic nor irrigation system have meters at either household or system level.

Domestic water is supplied at a low, flat-rate tariff of US$2.4 per month. Given the high average rates of consumption (370 liters per person per day when calculated at the treatment plant, however, loses may well be half of this amount and are unknown), this is equivalent to a cost per m3 of US$0.04. Irrigation water is charged according to the size of plot, type of use (including livestock and fishponds) and economic status with an median charge of about US$2.9 which is equivalent to about 0.0043 US$/m3 (based on the average available supply from the system before loses, which again are likely to be large, of 22m3/household/day). Most users believe the tariffs to be fair and affordable, and the default rate on the combined quarterly bills for both systems is low. Users find it easier to pay the quarterly bills matching cycles of their income from irrigated crops. The income from these tariffs is sufficient to cover the operation (including full-time operators for each system, who in practice work together) and maintenance costs, including chemicals for the inefficient treatment plant. Some money is also invested in tree-planting to protect the water supply catchment.

The villages are fortunate to be supplied by two reliable perennial streams, and the communities have undertaken active measures to protect the catchment including planting trees and constructing fences to exclude livestock and prevent stream bank erosion. These catchment protection measures are programmed by the water organization, and are a locally - based initiative rather than being undertaken for the environmental authority which also requires such actions. There are rules that everyone should participate in catchment protection works. People believe that this has led to increased streamflow, and ensured availability of water for the systems. Most catchment protection measures have been undertaken in the catchment of the irrigation system, due to the non-cooperation of the owner of most of the land that forms the other catchment of the domestic system. Further measures taken to conserve water resources include control of irrigation techniques. Farmers are not allowed to use furrow or flood irrigation methods and must use sprinklers or drip to improve irrigation water use efficiency. In summer, access to irrigation water is limited to turns every 3 days.

A single community-managed organization (Asodisriego) now runs both the water supply systems. Originally this organization was just for the irrigation system, but when the domestic system encountered management problems in 1995, the community asked Asodisriego to manage both systems. The same community leaders have been involved in running this organization since mid 1990s, which is both a strength and a weakness. These leaders have developed a strong management capacity, including the ability to make and use linkages at the municipal and department level to secure resources and influence. However, it leaves the system vulnerable to the loss of a few key individuals and thus, potentially compromising future sustainability.

Community members do participate in activities such as catchment protection and in meetings where they are kept informed, however, decision making is in the hands of a few leaders. As they have managed the systems well, most people are satisfied with this situation. Strong leadership has been critical. Despite not having a legal basis for such multiple-use water supply systems and no external support beyond occasional investment in infrastructure, the community have been able to develop their own vision and mode of operation for the systems because of good leadership and trust of the community.

The two water supply systems have some common characteristics. Both supply relatively large volumes of water at low cost. As well as meeting domestic water demands, this has enabled the residents of Cajamarca and San Isidro to develop a thriving agricultural basis to their livelihoods. As well as 99% of the residents being engaged in irrigated agriculture that generates 3 or 4 crops and associated income a year, many are involved in livestock production. Livestock, including raising cows and pigs, are seen as a source of additional income and also savings. Smaller livestock, especially chickens, are common. In Cajamarca, where people have access to both water systems, most people use the domestic system for their livestock because it provides water closer to home where livestock are kept, and because of the perceived better quality. Incomes are very variable, but families may earn between US$80 and 1200 from their cultivation activities alone.

The multiple use water systems in Cajamarca and San Isidro have played a vital role in improving the livelihoods of the residents. Previously they used to grow less water intensive but less lucrative crops like tobacco that were harvested once a year, whereas now they are able to engage securely in year-round irrigation and livestock production. This has helped reduce migration from the village, increase the value of land, and reduce conflicts over previously much scarcer water resources.

The full report is available in Spanish.

[Anonymous].  Submitted.  Service Oriented Management and MUS in Modernizing Large Irrigation Systems.

D. Renault: Service Oriented Management and Multiple Uses of Water in Modernizing Large Irrigation Systems

20 large irrigation systems (average system size is 171.000 ha) mainly in Asia are scrutinized for multiple uses, functions and purposes. Most of them have been investigated by FAO as part of its program on irrigation modernization. The concept of Service Oriented Management (SOM) is central in the latest developed approach, called MASSCOTE [Mapping Systems and Services for Canal Operation Techniques]. This SOM approach on irrigation systems paves the way to identifying multiple uses and functions of water services within the gross command area of these systems. Analysis shows that only two systems out of 20 can be classified strictly as single use, all the other systems, are dealing, with varying degree, with multiple water uses, multiple functions, and/or externalities within their command area and therefore can be qualified as medium or high Multiple Uses of Water Services (MUS) system. Not many irrigation systems are designed/developed for providing service for multiple water uses, or are integrating MUS in absolute terms, but not many systems rank high in service oriented management either. However many systems (7) are already following practices related to MUS, only 6 systems have low MUS integration. It is found that the higher the degree of MUS the higher the integration of SOM in the management. High SOM level goes always with high integration of any other use when practiced in the command area. For some low SOM systems integration of MUSF in the management is still made at a similar low level as the one practice for crop water services. [authors abstract]

[Anonymous].  Submitted.  Irrigation-plus approaches to multiple use of water.

A powerpoint presented by Barbara van Koppen and Eline Boelee on examples of multiple use of water in irrigation schemes: irrigation-plus.

[Anonymous].  Submitted.  Irrigation .

A powerpoint presented by Eline Boelee, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Ruth Meinzen - Dick,  International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Mary Renwick, Winrock International, on multiple uses of irrigation systems.

[Anonymous].  Submitted.  Bulgaria: institutional constraints for multiple use of water (English).


Since 1989, societies in the transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe experienced a simultaneous change from a centralized planned to a market-oriented economy and from a communist-determined to a democratic political system. They suffered numerous economic, political, and institutional constraints (Roland 2000). In addition, the agricultural producer cooperatives lost their economic power and their provision of social cohesion in the rural areas. In contemporary Bulgaria, and other transitional economies, the agricultural sector buffers the national economic decline. The recent development of small-scale subsistence farming has turned out to be a strategy, in particular, for the elderly rural population to cope with severe poverty.

The Bulgarian irrigation systems were built to serve large production units during socialism and do not meet the current diversified needs. At present, the facilities have largely deteriorated. Water losses in the irrigation system are estimated to amount to around 70% (Global Water Partnership 2000: 24; 82). The remaining scarce irrigation water resources have to serve multiple and directly competing water user purposes, i.e., subsistence farming including household plots, watering animals, agricultural production, and fish-farming.

Case Study Methodology

The study is based on six months of empirical fieldwork subdivided into three phases spanning two and a half years from 2000 to 2002. In the frame of this study, four village case studies were carried out in the Haskowo region of South-East Bulgaria. The main water source for irrigation is surface water, stored in microdams. Water is brought to the fields mainly via open canal systems. In most cases, farmers divert water from the canals to their fields by primitive gravity irrigation techniques. Two irrigation command areas were selected. In each area, two villages were chosen with one village located directly behind the water dam (top-ender) and the other further back—at the middle or tail-end of the canal and river system.

With the help of explorative and qualitative methods in the first two research phases, I analyzed, among other aspects, the rules-in-use which govern the daily practices of irrigation. I revealed power resources of local actors in the irrigation sector, which were perceived as decisive by the local actors. In the third empirical phase, interactive interview techniques with cue sorts were applied to rank these power resources in descending order (Theesfeld 2004b).

Multiple Water Use

According to different crop structure, size of the plots, and irrigation technology used, the requirements for irrigation water greatly differ between subsistence farmers and agricultural producers. In the case study region, subsistence farmers operate on less than half a hectare in total. The agricultural producers include a small number of midsized farmers operating between 3 to 40 hectares and on average 1 or 2 large tenants, and 1 or 2 cooperative farms per village operating on average up to 300 hectares each.

The water in the canal is not sufficient to serve all users at the same time. There is no ramified canal network and the practiced retaining technique does not allow for simultaneous irrigation. Thus, subsistence farmers who are usually cropping at the tail-end can extract less water from the system.

An additional infrastructure specificity is that subsistence livestock keeping is often supplied by watering livestock from a river. In most cases, river water supply and canal water supply are interdependent. Usually, the water guard at a barrage decides how much water is released into the canal and how much is retrained in the river. Watering livestock will thus subtract resource units from the same water resource that other actors want to use for irrigation.

A specificity in Bulgaria’a irrigation sector in transition is the fish-farming in the water dams. Fish farmers and crop farmers are often in conflict with each other. During the summer, i.e., the fish-growing season, the water level is either kept high for fish-farming or it is released for irrigation purposes. During autumn, the water level in the dam is either reduced to fish out, or the water is stored until the following spring irrigation season. The fish-farming business is part of the Mafia-like structures in Bulgaria. Thus, the microdams are heavily guarded and neither the water users nor the local authorities are willing to begin negotiations on the release of water for irrigation purposes.

Rules Governing Multiple Water Use

According to Ostrom et al. (1994: 37-50), an institutional analysis relevant to field settings requires the understanding of the effective rules, or rules-in-use. The incongruity of formal and effective rules is typical for transition countries and is striking also for Bulgaria’s irrigation sector. Effective water appropriation rules favor some water users and disadvantage other users and, likewise, favor certain kinds of water use. Limited sanctioning and enforcement mechanisms, as well as practically non-existent monitoring, mechanisms provide favorable conditions for opportunistic behavior and unequal opportunities to withdrawal water for different purposes.

Water Ordering and Appropriation Rules

Water users have to put in an advance order with the water guard if they want to irrigate. The formal rule stipulates that the guard must collect a certain amount of orders before he can open the barrage and fill the canal with water. Nevertheless, compliance with this rule varies. The first formal rule – a farmer who orders water and pays in advance has the right to irrigate – does not work in practice. The informal rule appears to be: when the canal is filled, irrigate to be on the safe side, whether or not you have ordered water. Accordingly, the water guard tries to collect the fees afterwards.

As regards fish-farming, formally the fish should not reach a level that would initiate a competition for water between irrigation and fish-farming. Although farmers in one case study village ordered water, the tenant of the water dam did not divert water into the canal.

In addition, the Irrigation System Company state firm (ISC) regional branch offers verbal advice to the water guards in ranking the crops for irrigation. For instance, only the pickles should be irrigated from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. During the day, priority should be given to eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. Corn ranks third, as it needs a lot of water. It should mainly be irrigated late at night. Most cases of irrigation practice do not reflect these regulations.

A statement taken from an interview summarizes the second rule-in-use regulating the irrigation sequence: “Whoever is ahead of you at the canal is the first to irrigate. That is the law.” Most of the interviewees described the situation as chaotic. When the canal is filled, a tail-ender faces water shortage as everyone ahead of him irrigates, even though he ordered the water and may have even already paid for it. Subsistence farmers can usually only rent in plots from cooperatives or larger tenants at the tail-end of the irrigation canal, thus being disadvantaged according to the gap between formal and effective rules.

The third rule of irrigation from one canal is specified by physical power. Physical violence among the users of an irrigation system is symptomatic of inadequate assignment of spatial or temporal irrigation slots to appropriators (Ostrom 1992).

Monitoring Rules

There is almost no monitoring system for water appropriation. This situation leads to farmers guarding their fields around the clock. First, farmers wait for the water in the canal to reach their plot so that they can immediately start irrigating before another farmer begins. Second, they must supervise while irrigating, otherwise another farmer diverting water from a top-end position can begin irrigating, leaving them insufficient water to complete their irrigation turn.

Excludability and Sanctioning Rules

Water users who have not paid the water fee cannot technically be excluded from water diversion from a canal. There is no graduated and credible sanctioning mechanism, as described by Ostrom (1992) in the design principles for enduring, self-governing, common-pool resource institutions. The water guard that worked in one of the case study villages carried no authority. Formal sanctioning power is generally lacking. Violators caught when committing a crime, such as destroying the barrage that distributes water among different canals, are not sanctioned.

Power Abuse in the Irrigation Sector

The aforementioned examples of actual water appropriation practice indicate that incongruity of formal and effective rules facilitates the exercise of power by actors and, in turn, is a result of that process. Asymmetric provision with power resources among the actors affects various decisions and actions in the irrigation sector (Theesfeld 2004a). Table 1 summarizes examples of transactions in the irrigation sector that are affected by power abuse. Knight’s Distributional Theory of Institutional Change (1992: 126) focuses on power asymmetries of actors as the main determinant of institutional change. This theory helps to explain how power asymmetries influence the capacity of strategic actors to determine the content of rules.

Table 1 : Transactions in the Irrigation Sector Affected by Power Abuse

Transactions in the irrigation sector

Actors involved

Specific decisions affected by power abuse

Renting in plots from the cooperative

Water users ↔ cooperative

Who gets plots at top-end position along the canal?

Starting an irrigation turn

Water users ↔ neighboring water users at the canal

Who irrigates first, and who violates the water appropriation rules?

Paying for irrigation water

Water users ↔ water guard

Who refrains from paying, or who pays less?

Releasing water into the canal

Water users ↔ water guard

When, i.e., favoring whom, the water is released?

Closing the barrage of a microdam

Fish farmers ↔ water users

For how long is water not released into the irrigation canal?

The empirical approach to derive at power resources combines several stages: (1)filtering and exploring relevant power resources, (2) revealing and validating these power resources, and (3) having them valued and ranked recurrently by the respective actors. Using statistical procedures, it is tested if there are differences in the assessment of the power resources between different subgroups. The empirical results show with statistical significance that the power resources and their ranking are robust against the impact of belonging to different territorial, social, and agricultural producer groups. The power resources hold the following mean ranks: (1) unrestricted access to information is assessed as most important followed by (2) personal relationship, (3) trustworthiness, (4) cash resources for bribing, (5) menace, and (6) physical power and violence (Theesfeld 2004b).

Policy Recommendation

It became evident that while ignoring local power structures on the ground, the pure implementation of new formal rules, such as the Water User Association Act enforced in March 2001, may again lead to an abuse of power by individuals seeking for personal benefits. Power asymmetries among the newly evolving diversified actors constellation at the canal have to be reduced in order to allow for equal access to water for different kinds of purposes. Effective rules are needed that allow a provision of water for a range of different, even competing, purposes.

The perception of power resources by local actors can serve as a starting point and hint to specific policy measures required to ensure equal resource access. An empowered advisory service could provide information to farmers and simultaneously enhance communication. A farmers’ newspaper could be an easily accessible medium for spreading information. The Ministry of Agriculture’s current website is a good starting point for publishing general statistical data and providing a discussion forum on law-making processes.

Outlook for Further Research

Further research based on this case study should address the following questions: Which information-spreading measures for the rural and agricultural sector are elaborated and supported by the new Bulgarian government elected in autumn 2005, and how do these measures actually trigger down to the local level? Do pre-accession programs of the European Union facilitate access to information of small-scale farmers? Do we find empirical evidence that such measures reduce the predominant power asymmetries among the actors at the local level? Does this induce an institutional change towards effective local rules that allow for equal and multipurpose water use of the disadvantaged groups?


Global Water Partnership (ed.) (2000). Final report on Water Pricing in Selected Accession Countries to the European Union: Current Policies and Trends. A report produced for the European Commission – DG Environment. (EU contract number B4-3040/99/130877/MAR/B2) Sofia: Water Clubs in Bulgaria.

Knight, Jack (1992). Institutions and Social Conflict. WashingtonUniversity: CambridgeUniversity Press.

Ostrom, Elinor (1992). Crafting Institutions for Self-Governance Irrigation Systems. San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies Press.

Ostrom, Elinor; Gardner, Roy and Walker, James (1994). Rules, Games and Common-Pool Resources.Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Roland, Gérard (2000). Transition and Economic: Politics, Markets, and Firms. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Theesfeld, Insa (2004a). Constraints on Collective Action in a Transitional Economy: The Case of Bulgaria’s Irrigation Sector. World Development 32 (2), 251-271.

Theesfeld, Insa (2004b). Institutional Change in Bulgaria’s Irrigation Sector in Transition – Power Resources of Local Actors. Schriften der Gesellschaft für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften des Landbaus e.V. “Perspektiven in der Landnutzung – Regionen, Landwirtschaften, Betriebe – Entscheidungsträger und Instrumente”. Band 39, Münster-Hiltrup: Landwirtschaftsverlag, 261-270.