WIT Press

A Source Of Conflict? Distribution Of Water Rights In Abanico Punata, Bolivia


Free (open access)

Paper DOI






Page Range

473 - 484




501 kb


C. Saldías, S. Speelman & G. Van Huylenbroeck


Concentration of rights and the access to water have become important issues in water and conflict debates in the Andes. In Bolivia the concentration of water takes place in an environment of increasing water scarcity and socio-economical differences between class, gender and ethnicity. Analysing the mechanisms of water right acquisition and access to water can serve as an input for policies to manage water-related conflicts. The aim of this study therefore was to investigate irrigation water allocation in 65 peasant communities that are part of ‘Abanico Punata’ (‘Punata Fan’), an agricultural oriented region in Bolivia, in order to understand the water-related conflicts that are taking place in the area. The results show that there is a large difference in access to water between and within the communities studied. Access is mostly determined by the number and the types of water sources households have at their disposition. Many households only have access to water from the river, which is dependent on the runoff and only provides water during the wet season. Water availability improves significantly when having access to water from reservoirs, but this access depends on customary law or on investments made during the construction of the infrastructure. Considering gender and water allocation the results show that the participation of women is small compared to that of men, as on average only 30% of water rights are registered under women’s names. Looking at ethnicity, the analysis shows that the determining factor in water allocation are the bonds of kinship and identification/recognition as a member of the community. Finally in relation to social class, it was shown that there is a correspondence between economic factors and water, especially because resources, mainly economic, enable a family to materialize their right, either during infrastructure creation or through purchase. Keywords: water rights, water allocation, community, Abanico Punata, Bolivia.


water rights, water allocation, community, Abanico Punata, Bolivia