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Public, Private, and Shared Water: Groundwater Markets and Groundwater Access in Pakistan

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Meinzen-Dick, Ruth
Conference: Voices from the Commons, the Sixth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Berkeley, CA
Conf. Date: June 5-8, 1996
Date: 1996
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1961
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
water resources
property rights
Abstract: "Determining water rights in Pakistan is complex, with canal water changing from state to common to individual property as it moves from the main system to farmers' fields. Overlaid on this system is growing use of groundwater that is pumped and owned by those who can afford to invest in tubewells. Groundwater markets, through which tubewell owners sell water to other farmers, have become the major means of access to valuable groundwater resources for those who are unable to purchase wells. This paper examines the implication of water rights for the operation of groundwater markets in Pakistan, with particular reference to their impact on equity, agricultural productivity, and incomes. "Findings indicate that larger and older farmers are more likely to own tubewells, and hence control groundwater supplies. Groundwater markets improve the access to groundwater for small farmers, landless tenants, and younger households. Although groundwater legally belongs to the owners of the overlying land, in practice it is owned by the owners of the tubewells. However, well owners do not charge full scarcity value for the water. Nevertheless, tubewell water purchasers do not have full access rights: they are frequently denied access when water or energy supplies are scarce. Small and younger farmers are significantly more likely to be cut off. This limits the productivity of groundwater for purchasers. "Joint tubewell ownership provides an alternative means of access to groundwater for small farmers. Because shared tubewell ownership gives farmers a stronger right to groundwater than water purchases, it may be a preferable option. However, the transactions costs of negotiating the joint investment, as well as the sharing of water on an ongoing basis, need to be carefully examined and traded off against the gains of stronger water rights."

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