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Local IWRM organizations for groundwater regulation: The experiences of the Aquifer Management Councils (COTAS) in Guanajuato, Mexico

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Evidence of groundwater management by aquifer users emerging under Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) initiatives is presented, by analyzing the Consejos T├ęcnicos de Aguas (COTAS; Technical Water Councils or Aquifer Management Councils) in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, established between 1998 and 2000 by the Guanajuato State Water Commission (CEAG). Two contrasting models influenced this attempt to promote user self-regulation of groundwater extractions: locally autonomous aquifer organizations with powers to regulate groundwater extractions versus aquifer organizations with advisory powers only. The COTAS were conceived as locally autonomous IWRM organizations consisting of all aquifer users that would work together to reduce groundwater over-extraction and stabilize aquifer levels, at a later stage. CEAG followed an expedient IWRM approach to develop the COTAS, setting achievable targets for their development and explicitly focusing on active stakeholder participation. The article shows that, due to struggles between the state and federal levels, the COTAS have become advisory bodies that have not led to reductions in groundwater extractions. It concludes that achieving user self-regulation of groundwater extractions requires a fuller delegation of responsibilities to the COTAS which would not be possible without addressing the institutional struggles over water governance at the state and federal levels.

Keywords: Aquifer management councils; COTAS; Groundwater management; Guanajuato; IWRM; Mexico; User self-regulation; Water governance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Irrigation and Water Engineering Group of Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Publication date: February 1, 2009


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