The limits of integrated water resources management and the right to water: a return to the commons?

Cooper, Nathan John (2010) The limits of integrated water resources management and the right to water: a return to the commons? In: 11th WaterNet/WARFSA/GWP‐SA symposium, 27 - 29 October 2010, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper considers the degree to which the right to water in South Africa has been realised,
and the efficacy of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in producing equitable
and sustainable hydro-socio-ecological solutions. IWRM is a crucial strategic approach to
ensure that the actions of sector stakeholders are framed within the constraints of
sustainability, economic efficiency, environmental integrity, social equity, transparency and
knowledge equity. Competition for scarce water resources naturally gives rise to selfinterested
actions, but healthy IWRM processes purport to channel self-interest productively
and curb the negative effects of inequality. However, disconnection between the science of
IWRM and the policies and practices emanating from it demonstrate its limitations for
equitable water allocation. The paper explores the way that the South African courts have
approached the right to water, drawing into question what place IWRM has in South African
jurisprudence. The recent Constitutional Court case Mazibuko is central to the analysis.
Having explored the limitations of IWRM and a rights-based approach to water, the paper
applies the idea of ‘the commons’, a new way to express a very old idea, that some forms of
wealth belong to all of us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and
managed for the good of all. Exploration is made of the potential that a reinvigorated concept
of the commons could have for making manifest equitable and sustainable water for

Additional Information:The Physics and Chemistry of the Earth: A Special Issue
Keywords:Water supply, Right to water, Commons, Human rights, IWRM, Sustainable development
Subjects:L Social studies > L721 Economic Geography
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D443 Water Resource Management
Divisions:College of Social Science > Lincoln Law School
ID Code:16953
Deposited On:19 Mar 2015 17:51

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