An evaluation of groundwater institutions in India: a property rights perspective

  • Jayanath AnandaEmail author
  • Mohamed Aheeyar


Groundwater governance has become an intractable policy issue, which has many implications for the living standards and well-being of millions of rural poor in South Asia. Groundwater governance is complex as it is influenced by various hydrogeological, sociopolitical and socioeconomic factors. Unregulated groundwater extraction rates in South Asia have depleted the aquifers causing a raft of socioeconomic, environmental and human health problems. This paper analyzes de facto rights in groundwater markets and other emerging ‘groundwater-sharing institutional arrangements’ in India. Using a multi-dimensional property rights model, the paper decomposes de facto groundwater rights while drawing insights and broad policy lessons. The findings indicate that there is much scope for enhancing the ‘small group groundwater sharing’ governed by social regulatory measures. Moreover, distortionary subsidies for agriculture in general and groundwater development, in particular, have had an adverse impact of the resource use and merit further attention.


Governance Markets Water sharing Social regulation Transaction costs South Asia 

JEL Classification

D23 Q22 Q25 Q15 D62 H41 



The principle author gratefully acknowledges the support provided by Dr. Peter McCornick (then Deputy Director General of International Water Management Institute), Water for Food Daugherty Global Institute, University of Nebraska, USA, and Dr. Madar Samad, IWMI, Sri Lanka, in conducting this research.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business and LawCentral Queensland UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.International Water Management InstitutePelawatte, Battaramulla, ColomboSri Lanka

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