Legal Pluralism & Integrated Water Resources Management
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Many countries have plural legal systems where, apart from the statutory laws, diverse customary systems are relied upon in resolving water-related problems and conflicts. The neglect of these norms and laws in current approaches to reform, under the banner of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), may be expected to have severe consequences for marginalised communities and the effectiveness of the new management systems.


The collaborative research project, completed in March 2006, aimed to improve the consideration of plural legal systems in water management policy, and to enhance the capacity of water resource managers to consider customary laws in practice. The project documented local water conflicts, and the complementarities and tensions between statutory and customary systems in addressing conflicts. Outputs include improved guidelines and training for IWRM professionals working in countries with plural legal systems.

The project involved the University of Dar-es-Salaam (Institute of Resource Assessment and Faculty of Law), the International Water Management Institute (Africa Region), the University of Zimbabwe (Centre for Applied Social Sciences), and the Natural Resources Institute in Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe. For further details see the contacts page. The project started in October 2003 and ended in March 2006. The research team focused on case studies in Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe.