In the past decade the Tanzanian government, with a loan from the World Bank, designed and implemented a new administrative water rights system with the aim of improving basin-level water management and cost-recovery for government water-resource management services. The paper evaluates the processes and impacts after the first years of implementing the new system in the Upper Ruaha catchment. In this areas, most water users are small-scale irrigators and livestock keepers who develop and manage water according to customary arrangements, without much state support. Contrary to expectations, the new system has failed as a registration tool, a taxation tool and as a water management tool, and has contributed to aggravating rural poverty. As a taxation tool, the system introduces corruption, and the collection costs are higher than revenue gained. In water management, the system increases conflict as upstream water users claim that paying for water entitles them to use it as they like. However, the taxation of the few private large-scale water users at negotiated rates appears feasible. It is suggested that the paradoxical results are due to dichotomy between the 'modern' large-scale rural and urban economy with corresponding legislation, and the rural spheres where small-scale water users live under customary water tenure. The paper suggests easy adaptations in the current water rights system to accommodate both groups of water users, improve cost-recovery for government services, mitigate water conflicts and alleviate rural poverty.
Working Paper 71. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute. ISBN 92-9090-5565, 32 pp.