The challenges facing water resources require governments to take necessary financial, institutional, and legal measures to ensure sustainable access to water. Without appropriate regulatory frameworks, governmental bodies forfeit their ability to manage water allocation and protect relevant water rights. This sub-section encompasses for Tools related to water rights and allocation, international water law, the integration of legal frameworks, the Rights of Rivers, the human rights-based approach.
Legal frameworks play an important role in the management of water resources at a range of scales – from local and national legislation covering domestic use, to international treaties that govern waters shared by sovereign states. The importance of water legislation has been first recognised during the Mar del Plata United Nations Water Conference in 1977, laying the foundation for global framework to utilization, development, conservation, management, and protection of water resources (Salman and Bradlow, 2006).
Among the overall purposes, water law performs the following key functions (Rieu-Clarke, 2012):
- It defines and identifies the legal rights and obligations of public and private water users tied to water use (broadly defined) and provides the prescriptive parameters for resource development and management to promote the public interest;
- It provides tools for ensuring the continuous integrity of the regime – that is, through governance structures, mechanisms for monitoring, evaluating, and facilitating compliance, and dispute prevention, and settlement; and
- It allows for modifications of the existing regime, to be able to adapt to changing needs and circumstances.