Evolution of Management Systems for Household Water in the Northern Thai Highlands

C. Sangkapitux, P. Elstner, and A. Neef (Thailand)


Household water management, collective action, Thailand


This paper presents the complexity of management systems for household water and analyzes regulations and problem solving strategies vis-à-vis water scarcity, drawing on intensive qualitative surveys in ten villages in two northern Thai provinces that differ with respect to market-orientation. Results suggest that communal household water supply systems were often established with assistance from governmental organizations, while the management remains under the control of the villagers. Water use and allocation is based on explicit rules and regulations, which ascertain the exclusive use of the source for household water and control the use in times of scarcity. These management systems are highly dynamic, and villagers adapt them if they can no longer provide a secure water supply. The exchange of household water sources between two villages in the predominantly subsistence-oriented province reflects the flexibility and pragmatism of local communities and their potential for collective action beyond the village level. Inter-village cooperation with regard to household water is less prominent in the market-oriented province.

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