Water User Associations and the Evolution and Determinants of Management Reform: A Representative Look at Northern China

In this paper we are pursuing the following objectives:

  1. document the existing water management institutional forms throughout China, their evolution over time and across provinces;
  2. describe the actors and their roles and other governance issues in WUAs and compare them to traditional collectively managed irrigation systems and other types of reform-oriented irrigation institutions (especially contracting);
  3. analyze the determinants of the emergence of these institutions throughout China in order to understand the role of scarcity of water resources; the size of the community's irrigation system, policy and other village characteristics in their emergence.

To meet these objectives, the rest of the paper is organized as follows.

First, we will discuss the dilemma of China's surface water policy. Because of the nature of China's farming practices - since almost all of China's agriculture is based smallholders who farm small, dispersed plots, it is hard to use water pricing policy in surface water areas. This makes irrigation management reform important and it is with this motivation that we launch our study of WUAs and other water management reforms, their governance and determinants.

In the second section we discuss the data. In the following two sections, the spread of WUAs, their governance and their other characteristics are examined - first descriptively and then with multivariate analysis. The final section concludes.