The importance of irrigation water rights: lessons from South Africa and Tunisia

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With increasing water scarcity, research on policy options for improved water allocation and governance has become an urgent priority for many developing and developed countries. More and more, the focus is placed on institutional reforms but evaluating institutional alternatives is a challenging task. This paper takes a comparative approach and confronts case study data from Tunisia and South Africa, highlighting the importance of water rights reforms for irrigators. Using contingent valuation methods, the benefits for water users of changes in water rights systems are quantified. In both countries, willingness to pay estimates reveal that, from the farmers' perspective, significant improvements can be made to current water rights systems. This is valuable information for policy makers to guide institutional reforms.

Keywords: Irrigation, South Africa, Tunisia, Water policy, Water rights, WTP

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