New paper on water tenure for improved food security and sustainable development

24 December, 2020

Freshwater – including both surface and groundwater – is essential to public health, food security, livelihoods, and healthy and resilient ecosystems. Yet, approximately 2.2 billion people globally continue to lack access to safely managed drinking water and over 2 billion people live in conditions of high water stress.

These challenges are, in large part, attributable to failures in water governance: the rules, practices, and processes through which decisions about water management and allocation are made and implemented and by which decision-makers are held accountable. A key aspect of water governance is water tenure, which can be defined as the relationship, whether legally or customarily defined, between people, as individuals or groups, with respect to water resources.

A new paper by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) explores the bundle of water-related rights approach to un-packing the concept and the practical ramifications of water tenure. It is based on recent research and analysis that have helped to identify the core elements of water tenure based on data demonstrating how water tenure systems are legally recognized at the national level and how they function across diverse countries.