Implementation of Water Reserves in Bolivia Using its Existing Water Law Framework

By Rising Colorado Law 2L Colin Hull

Colorado Law Student, Colin Hull worked with the World Wildlife Fund’s Water Reserves Initiative as part of the GWC’s David Harrison Innovations in Water and Energy Law & Policy Fellowship. As part of this Fellowship, Colin produced the following report exploring water reserves in South America.

The urgency of the climate crisis and Bolivia’s efforts to rapidly develop threatens its watersheds and natural flowing rivers.  The Water Reserves Initiative, which allocates water to the environment, is essential to ensure the sustainability of water as a resource and protect its ecological benefits. A 2016 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) consultancy briefly addressed the possibility and problems of implementing a water reserves program at the national level. This analysis builds off the 2016 consultancy by assessing the legal framework and the priorities of the Bolivian government. The research focused on constitutional provisions, laws, regulations, and government plans that relate to the management of water. While the Bolivian government recognizes the need for a comprehensive water management program, numerous institutional deficiencies and contradictions in the legal framework serve as barriers to the implementation of any program at the national level. The findings suggest that there are several legal gaps that need to be filled before the Water Reserves Initiative can be successfully developed. However, there are several entry points for the WWF to begin working with the Bolivian government to implement the Water Reserves Initiative.

The WWF’s Water Reserves Initiative is an effort aimed at protecting hydrological conditions by allocating water for the environment in a region’s most important water producing areas. The program hopes to secure protection of freshwater ecosystems and free-flowing rivers, and the environmental benefits they provide. These benefits include the transport of sediments and nutrients, fish spawning and productivity, riparian protection, a buffer against natural variability in water availability, cultural values, recreation and navigation.  Furthermore, allocating water to the environment can prevent the over-allocation of water, which inevitably leads to serious water conflicts. It hopes to secure these protections by explicitly allocating water to the environment by statute or official decree where it has not already been allocated for agricultural, industrial, energy, or drinking purposes. The Water Reserve Initiative provides an opportunity to set rules for future infrastructure development and water allocation. It can contribute to better water governance since it sets the stage to analyze project impacts that could lead to the denial of a license if problems related to flow connectivity and biodiversity conservation arise…

View the full report here:

Implementation-of-Water-Reserves-in-Bolivia.-Harrison-Fellow-Colin-Hull.pdf (