After the collapse of the Soviet Union and collective farms, farmers in Kyrgyzstan were left without an organization that would be responsible for on-farm irrigation. One of the first from former Soviet republics Kyrgyzstan introduced water fees and formed participatory Water Users Associations (WUAs) for on-farm irrigation operation and maintenance.
In August 13, 1997 the Government built a legal foundation to introduce the system of WUAs around the country and in March 2002, institutionalized them by adopting the Law on Water User Associations.
The main functions of a WUA are operation and maintenance of the on-farm irrigation system, including water fee collection, water distribution and dispute resolution and self-financing of these tasks, while the government keeps responsibility for the inter-farm irrigation networks and main canals.
The WUAs operate under the principles of self-interest, ownership and community participation where water users are actively involved in the discussion on budgeting and identifying priorities to be given to user’s applications for the rehabilitation of infrastructure.
The management structure of WUAs is the following:
- General Assembly of Members - responsible for policy making and setting up the budget, takes place once a year
- Elected Council (usually 7-11 members) with a chairman (or chairwoman), who all work in an honorary capacity:
- WUA Executive - accountable to the GA:
- mirabs (water masters), employed during irrigation season.
At the beginning of the season, each farmer has to make a contract with the WUA about the amount of water he needs. Accordingly, the WUA makes a contract with the RayVodKhoz (District Water Administration) on the overall amount of water. All WUAs have to pay a water fee of 0,03 KGS (equivalent to 0,0004 USD) per m³ to the RayVodKhoz for the transportation of the water. WUAs have the right to determine fees per estimated costs to cover fee to RayVodKhoz, staff salaries, social duties, rehabilitation work, taxes, transportation costs, administration costs, water loss.
To ensure transparency and accountability, information on the budget is publicly accessible in WUA offices. Farmers who are not members of the WUA but use water from channels under WUA responsibility have to pay higher fees (around 1.5 times) that determined by the WUA.
Currently, the country is numbering 486 WUAs that serve 70% of the irrigated land with total number of members of more than 166,000.
As a result of the reform:
- Decentralization of public administration increased the efficiency of irrigation
- Supply of irrigation water as well as the collection of water fees is now more transparent and fair.
- The water saving irrigation technologies such as adapted to climate change, have been introduced.
- The number of disputes related to water has decreased.
- The communities involved have significantly improved the capacity in terms of organization and management development initiatives.
Partners: The World Bank, UNDP, Swiss Agency for Development, USAID, FAO.
Union of WUAs of Kyrgyz Republic
Phone: +996 (312) 56-45-86, mоb: +996 (778) 21-44-21