Water Rights and Water Fees in Rural Tanzania.


This chapter analyses the implementation and impacts of the new water rights and fees system in the Upper Ruaha, which encompasses farmer-managed irrigation through river abstractions, the typical mode of irrigation in 64% of Tanzania’s irrigated area. The second section analyses how the Tanzanian government, advised by the World Bank, suddenly abandoned its agenda of water development in the early 1990s. Justified by basin-specific, localized conflicts over water in the dry season, a water regulation agenda was introduced that put water scarcity and conservation nationwide at the centre stage. It describes how the new water administration that was put in place to effectuate that regulation agenda was grafted upon the formal legal framework that was inherited from the colonial powers since 1923. These colonial roots explain why water management has ever since been implemented by highly centralized water authorities. However, up till 1994, the administrative system of water rights remained rather dormant, and reached only few formal, large-scale users. The revival of that system, expansion of its implementation nationwide to also include the informal rural majority, and the drastic increase of the fees to obtain water rights were to generate revenue and self-finance government and the expanding basin- management institutions and activities. Payment and valuing water as an economic good were put forward as effective ways to stimulate water conservation and saving.

The three subsequent sections evaluate the implementation processes and impacts on the ground in the Upper Ruaha basin, distinguishing the three components of the water rights system: registration, cost recovery and water allocation. The third section discusses the strengths and weaknesses of registration. As elaborated in the fourth section, the weaknesses of the registration render the system a shaky foundation for volume-based cost recovery among many small users. The fifth section highlights how the new water rights and fees system completely failed as a water allocation tool and aggravated upstream–downstream conflicts in the dry period. The sixth section concludes the chapter by identifying the adjustments required in the current water law in order to reach logistically realistic registration, cost recovery that generates net benefits for government, and government intervention in the water allocation issue that effectively support conflict mitigation during the dry season.


In: Irrigation Water Pricing: The Gap Between Theory and Practice, edited by Francois Molle, and Jeremy Berkoff. Chapter 6, pp 143-164. Sponsored by the Comprehensive Assessment. IWMI/CABI. Wallingford, UK.

Published 1 January 2007