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Essentially finite stocks of freshwater resources have been coming under increasing pressure to satisfy the ever-growing economic, social and environmental demands of today's complex, interdependent societies. In response to this pressure, governments virtually everywhere are substituting themselves for individual landowners as the masters or simply the guardians of water resources. As a result, government-administered legislation regulating the development, use and protection of water resources has supplanted litigation of basic tort and property doctrines almost everywhere as the primary framework of rights and obligations for all those who, in the public and in the private sector, develop and use water resources. Enactment of such legislation involves settling issues of policy and principle on the one hand, and matters of implementing detail on the other hand. Yet policies and principles often fail to be implemented for lack of the detailed procedures necessary to give them effect. As a result, the primary legislation may remain without practical effect and fall quickly into disuse.

This publication illustrates the types of legal machinery used for the management of freshwater resources through subordinate water resources management legislation. It is intended to bridge the gap between policy and implementation in the field of water legislation. It is an updating of an older Manual by the same title, published by FAO in the Legislative Studies series (No. 52, 1994)[1], written by Mr Stefano Burchi, Senior Legal Officer of the Development Law Service. The present version follows the structure of the original, but the legislative material supporting the analysis has been updated throughout, with the able assistance of Ms Ariella D'Andrea. In addition, fresh attention has been given to the trading of water rights, while the sections of the original Manual dealing with drinking water supply and sanitation, matters that could easily fill a separate book, have been deleted.

Lawrence Christy
Chief, Development Law Service

[1] A French version of the older Manual, based on original research on legislative material from French-speaking countries, has been published by FAO as "Elaboration des réglementations nationales de gestion des ressources en eau - Principes et pratiques", Legislative Study No. 69 (1999).

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