Water law reform to improve water security for vulnerable people in Africa

Across Africa, water law reforms have introduced new statutory permit systems with fees tied to permits, to govern the allocation of water resources. However, many African countries are facing major challenges in issuing and enforcing these permits. The formal permit systems exclude large numbers of small-scale water users in rural and peri-urban areas who cannot be reached by under-resourced government agencies.

The Catalyst project, led by the Pegasys Institute and the International Water Management Institute, compared the history and current status of implementing water permit systems in the five African countries. The team also identified possible improvements to legislation to support more effective and pro-poor water authorisation systems (read the blog and policy brief).

Expanding on the work achieved through the Catalyst grant, the Accelerated project aims to better understand the relationship between formal and informal water allocation systems, and the financial implications of permitting small scale users for government with the ultimate focus on finding pathways to decolonising permit systems and ensuring legal protection of the water use of the most vulnerable.

This project is one of five Accelerated Projects funded through our Partnership Funding.


October 2017 – March 2019


Kenya, South Africa, Uganda


  • Pegasys Institute
  • International Water Management Institute

Publications and Outputs

Schreiner, B. and van Koppen, B. (2019). Hybrid water rights systems for pro-poor water governance in Africa. Water MDPI: 12, 155.

van Koppen, B, and Schreiner, B. (2018). Establishing hybrid water use rights systems in sub-saharan Africa: a practical guide for managers. Pegasys Institute and IWMI Report.

van Koppen, B.; Schreiner, B. 2018. A hybrid approach to decolonize formal water law in Africa. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI). 45p. (IWMI Research Report 173)

Van Koppen, B. and B. Schreiner. 2017. Current challenges and good practices for water use authorisation systems in Africa . Pegasys Institute and IWMI Policy Brief.


Toward a hybrid approach to water law in Africa, October 2018

Making water permits work for the poor in Africa, May 2017


‘We want to make sure poor water users are legally and institutionally enabled and protected to use water resources for both domestic and productive uses.’

Barbara Schreiner, Pegasys Institute

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