Subtitle/Alternate Title

An assessment of water governance for rural supply and the nexus of agriculture production and socio economic demands in Malawi

First Advisor

Emily Van Houweling

Second Advisor

Scott DuPree


Professor Nina Miller


Regis College

Degree Name

Master of Development Practice


Posner Centre for International Development


Regis College

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Number of Pages

81 pages


The world is facing critical water risks in relation to water availability, yet the competing demand for water supply is increasing in most countries. To respond to these risks, some governments and water authorities are reforming their governance frameworks to achieve convergence between water supply and demand and ensure freshwater ecosystem services are sustained. Water is recognized as the only natural resource that has the capacity to influence socio-economic growth and poverty alleviation across the globe.

Malawi is generally rich in both surface and ground water resources, however, the pressure on water resources is increasing as a result of a growing population, and competing demands for water for energy generation, agriculture, industrial and domestic purposes. Water is part of the country’s identity, because of its inclusion in the definition of the country’s name and because it is another natural resource in abundance in the country occupying 20% of the surface area in Malawi. Malawi’s economy is dependent on agriculture and it contributes 37.6% to GDP and 80% of the labor force in rural areas. Agriculture is entirely dependent on seasonal rainfall and is accountable for 86% of water withdrawal in Malawi. Now with the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, the country has been experiencing unpredictable weather patterns characterized by poor distribution of rainfall, causing dry spells, droughts and floods in recent years. This is negatively impacting the water supply for domestic use and economic activities, and as a result the country’s economy is extremely vulnerable. Effective policies and governance strategies are therefore important for the sustainable development in Malawi. Successful management of freshwater resources also requires the integration of the different sectors that use this resource. Therefore, water resource management policies should have an integrated approach that involves social, economic and environmental factors

This study therefore, investigated the current water governance system by assessing the legislative and policy frameworks in Malawi. The study also analyzed policy gaps in the existing legislation. This was done through semi-structured interview qualitative data with relevant stakeholders in the water sector.

The results show that there are multiple challenges to water governance in Malawi and that the existing laws are not effectively addressing the current water challenges, because the country is using outdated water laws that are inconsistent with policy frameworks. Other critical gaps identified in this study were weak stakeholder coordination leading to fragmentation of organization in the sector, low national budget financing, weak decentralization and political influence leading to top-down management, failure by government to enforcement water regulations, and failure by government to enact policies to adapt to climate change and natural disasters.

Based on the study results, there is overwhelming evidence that the water governance, regulatory systems and policy frameworks in Malawi have some critical gaps. This poses a great concern for sustainable water supply for future generation and development in Malawi. Therefore, there Malawi needs to consistently review and update the current water laws and policies to ensure they create adaptive to the emerging climate change, natural disaster and rapid population growth challenges. This study therefore, has led to initiation of a project whose main aim is to advocate for policy reforms by influencing the government to update and enact new water laws and policies in Malawi.

Keywords: Water policy, Reforms, governance, Advocacy, Malawi

Date of Award

Spring 2020

Location (Creation)

Colorado (state); Denver (county); Denver (inhabited place)

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