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As briefly mentioned in Part Three, legislation in many countries makes provision for two or more WUOs to form a separate organization to undertake shared tasks of common relevance. Such tasks might include the operation of a main canal that supplies those WUOs with irrigation water (as in the case of Albania) or more general 'co-ordination' of the activity of WUOs (as in the case of Nepal where such co-ordination relates to operation, maintenance and water distribution in a defined area).

Like WUOs, such bodies invariably have independent legal personality. As in the case of WUOs, the legislation uses a variety of different names for them. In Spain WUOs that have common interests may create a 'General Water Users' Community' to provide for the defence of their rights and interests. In Nepal the term 'Users' Co-ordination Association' is used, while in both in Armenia and Bulgaria, the legislation entitles WUOs to establish 'Unions' of WUOs. In California WUOs may establish a 'Water Authority'. Elsewhere the term 'Federation' is used. Examples include El Salvador, Romania and Albania while in the Argentine Province of Mendoza such organizations are called 'Associations'.[150] For the purposes of this part the word 'federation' will be used.

The level of detail found in the legislation varies. The Mexican legislation simply provides that WUOs may associate for the purpose of improving the quality of the services they provide. No further details are given as to how such entities are to be established or to operate.[151] By way of contrast the legislation of Andhra Pradesh State in India, creates a relatively complex organizational hierarchy (see Box H).

Box H - Federations in Andhra Pradesh, India

The law establishes a multi-layered system, as follows. Farmers Organizations are WUOs established to operate the tertiary irrigation systems. They have been mentioned several times in the text.

Farmer Organizations can be members of 'Distributory Committees', at the secondary canal level. These are established on the initiative of the WUO regulator to co-ordinate the activities of their member Farmers Organizations. Specific tasks of a Distributory Committee include: the preparation of plans for the maintenance of distributor canals and medium-size drains within their area of operation, the regulation of the use of water among its member Farmer Organizations, the solving of disputes among member Farmer Organizations, the maintenance of a register of Farmer Organizations in its area of operation and an inventory of the irrigation infrastructure within its service area. Membership of a Distributory Committee is open to every Farmer Organization declared by the WUO regulator to be within the 'service area' of that committee. Each Distributory Committee has a 'General Body', which comprises the Presidents of each member Farmer Organization. The General Body elects a 'Managing Committee' composed of no more than five members and a President. Distributory Committees must abide by the decisions of the next layer of organization, the 'Project Committee'.

Project Committees are established at the level of each irrigation project on the initiative of the WUO regulator. Their main purpose is to co-ordinate the activity of Distributory Committees. Specific functions include approving an operational plan for the entire project area, approving a plan for the maintenance of the irrigation system within their area of operation, maintaining a list of Distributory Committees and Farmer Organizations in their area of operation, resolving disputes among Distributory Committees, maintaining accounts and having these audited annually.

Membership is open to all Distributory Committees in the area declared by the WUO regulator to be in the project area. Each Project Committee has a 'General Body' composed of the Presidents of all member Distributory Committees as well a 'Managing Committee', composed of no more than nine members, and a President elected by the members of the General Body from among themselves, in compliance with directions given by the WUO regulator. The term of office of the members and President of the Managing Committee are co-terminous with the term of the members of the General Bodies of the member Distributory Committees.

The legislation commonly provides for federations to be established as a specific type of legal person, a form of WUO. They generally operate on a non-profit basis just like their WUO participants, and their establishment procedure, whether by government decision or court registration, is usually similar to that of WUOs.

The establishment of Federations is usually voluntary. Sometimes a minimum number of members is needed: in El Salvador, for example, it is three. In Nepal the legislation permits federations the freedom to enact their own governing documents regulating their internal organization and functioning. But it is more common for the legislation to specify the internal institutional arrangements for federations just as it does for WUOs. In broad terms there are two basic approaches to the structure of federations. One approach, followed by Albania, Argentina and Armenia, calls for a relatively flat structure comprising a single management board to which each participating WUO is entitled to appoint a representative. In Argentina each federation is subject to internal supervision by a 'Board of Auditors' (Sindicatura) and similar provisions are found in the Albanian and Armenian legislation.

The other approach, found, for example, in the legislation of Bulgaria and El Salvador, resembles the typical structure of a membership WUO, with a general assembly made up of representatives from each member WUO, which in turn elects a Management Board. Like the Argentine Board of Auditors the Bulgarian legislation requires each federation to also have a Control Board.

The legislation of a number of the countries appears to make no mention of federations,[152] but this does not necessarily mean that such entities do not exist there. For example, in Germany the ordinary WUO law is sufficiently flexible to permit what are effectively federations to be established as WUOs, the participants in such bodies being WUOs, rather than individual land owners.

Finally, a related type of body is the national 'umbrella organization' for WUOs. While such bodies are relatively common, they are seldom established on the basis of specific WUO legislation. Instead they are generally established as private non-profit associations in the same form as non-governmental organizations. Again Germany provides a good example, with its public law WUOs being members of a national private law association, the Deutscher Bund der verbandlichen Wasserwirtschaft. But this is not always the case. In Saskatchewan Province in Canada the 'umbrella organization' for WUOs is the Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association, which is itself a public law body established in accordance with specific sectoral legislation.[153]

[150] Associations of WUOs (Asociaciones de Inspecciones).
[151] In fact they are usually established as limited liability companies, and as such they are not precluded from undertaking commercial activities.
[152] For example in Pakistan, South Africa, Bolivia and France.
[153] See footnote 115 above.

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