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Dynamics of Household Water Management Systems in Mountainous Regions of Northern Thailand

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Elstner, Peter; Bollen, Anne; Sangkapitux, Chapika
Conference: Survival of the Commons: Mounting Challenges and New Realities, the Eleventh Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Conf. Date: June 19-23, 2006
Date: 2006
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1958
Sector: Social Organization
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources--surveys
water quality
complex systems
resource management--surveys
Abstract: "Sufficient and clean water supply is a basic human right, but there are still thousands of communities in Thailand, especially in remote areas, that lack permanent and reliable supply of household water. This study aims to present the complexity of management systems for household water, to analyze regulations and problem solving strategies and to determine the factors which have influenced the evolution of the different systems in recent years. The study is based on intensive surveys in ten villages (four with northern Thai population and six inhabited by different ethnic minority groups, namely Hmong, Lahu and Shan) in two northern Thai provinces conducted in 2004 and 2005. The two provinces differed markedly with regard to ethnic composition and degree of commercialization of agricultural production. In semi-structured interviews with key persons (village headmen, water committee members, water company owner) and in group discussions management regulations, inter- and intravillage conflicts and resolution mechanisms were elicited. In addition, field surveys of the water sources, as well as storage and conveyance systems were carried out, and the data integrated into a GIS system. Results suggest that household water supply is of high priority in all communities, which in some cases is reflected in particular regulations that constrain the use of water sources for irrigation. Most household water sources are protected by religious rites, and its control and use are characterized by considerable variations. Three major systems can be distinguished: a) 'Communal systems without water fee' where all users are responsible for the maintenance, which requires a strong social cohesion and collective action to prevent free-riding behavior. These systems could mainly be found in the province with predominantly subsistence-oriented agricultural production and ethnic minority population. b) 'Communal systems with water fee' where the users pay a monthly lump-sum fee or a fee according to water use, and selected persons are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the system. These systems are prevailing in upstream villages in the market-oriented province. c) 'Individual supply systems' where farmers use water for both agricultural purposes and the household from the same, mainly private source or purchase drinking water from a local company. These systems exist mainly in downstream villages with a high degree of commercialization. "Communal household water supply systems were often established with assistance from governmental organizations, while the management is under the control of the villagers. The use and allocation of water is based on explicit rules and regulations, which ascertain the exclusive use of the source for household water and control the use in times of scarcity. However, these management systems are highly dynamic, and villagers adapt the system if it turns out to be unable to provide a secure water supply. The exchange of household water sources between two villages in the predominantly subsistence-oriented province reflects the flexibility and pragmatism of local communities and their potential for collective action beyond the village level. Inter- village cooperation with regard to household water is less prominent in the market-oriented province."

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