Whose Water?

Rights and Resources Initiative & Environmental Law Institute
Date Released
August 2020
Whose Water? (report cover)

Clearly defined and legally secure freshwater tenure rights are essential to Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ livelihoods and food security, as well as to countries’ efforts to achieve sustainable development priorities and ensure climate resilience. However, the extent of the legal recognition of these rights to water remains largely unknown and unmonitored. This report: (1) develops a methodological framework to conceptualize, compare, and track the extent to which countries' legal frameworks recognize community-based freshwater tenure rights; (2) applies this framework to diverse set of countries to assess the relative performance of different legal frameworks across Asia, Africa, and Latin America; and highlights the need for clear, gender-sensitive legal protections for communities' tenure rights across sectoral laws—reflecting the legal and lived reality that lands, forests, and water are interrelated. The analysis stems from a collaboration between the Environmental Law Institute and the Rights and Resources Initiative—which hosts the world’s only research program dedicated to monitoring the status of community-based land, forest, and freshwater tenure rights. A Summary Brief is also available.