We are involved in exploring regulatory frameworks for independent water providers in developing countries, including Ethiopia and Kenya, and the international legal framework of transboundary groundwater aquifers with a particular focus on the Guarani Aquifer in South America.

Past projects


We developed this project together with the Centre for Environmental Strategy and the Robens Centre for Public and Environmental Health. The project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


Independent water providers are frequently described in the literature in very critical terms yet such providers are often the only source of water for many urban poor. There is a significant gap, therefore, between water sector policy and actual practices on the ground. It is only when the role played by independent water providers is better understood that the hindrances they face will be able to be identified and minimised, and benefits provided by such operators will be able to be maximised.

In most of Africa independent water and sanitation providers still play a very significant role in meeting the overall needs of the population. In much of the developing world, domestic water supply is dominated not by the officially sanctioned water companies but by independent, frequently small scale, operators who may hold more than 80 percent of the water supply market.

If the challenge set at the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg in 2002 of halving by 2015 the proportion of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water then both the public and private sectors have major roles to play. This WSSD target equates to more than 300,000 extra people every day for over the fourteen year period from 2001 to 2015 gaining access to safe drinking water. Given the magnitude of the task at hand, innovative policy options need to be considered that maximise the contribution from all key players, including, where appropriate, independent water providers.

Against this background this project wishes to address the following question: How can guidelines for technical, policy and legal frameworks be created that will integrate independent water providers in developing countries into the formal system for water supply as a means of moving towards the millennium development goals for the provision of safe drinking water?


Ayalew, M, Malcolm, R., Okotto, L., Pedley, S., Chenoweth, J., Mulugeta, Y. (2010) Toward Safe and Affordable Water: Critical Examination of the Regulatory Frameworks, in Ethiopia and Kenya Society of Legal Scholars.

Malcolm, R., Ayalew, M, Okotto, L., Pedley, S., Chenoweth, J., Mulugeta, Y. (2010) The Regulatory Implications of the Right to Water: Small-Scale and Independent Water Providers in Ethiopia and Kenya, Ontario International Development Agency and Laurentian University, Canada.

L. Okotto, M. Ayalew, J. Chenoweth, R. Malcolm, S. Pedley and Y. Mulugetta (2009) The establishment of legal frameworks for independent and small-scale water providers, Interim Project Report.

(2009) The development and use of regulatory guidelines for independent water providers, side workshop at the 34th WEDC International Conference: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Sustainable Development and Multisectoral Approaches, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

(2009) The development and use of regulatory guidelines for independent water providers, VIRED International, Kisumu, Kenya.


Rosalind MalcolmProfessor in Law and Director of the Environmental Regulatory Research GroupSchool of Law, University of Surrey
Mulugeta AyalewPostgraduate research studentSchool of Law, University of Surrey
Lorna OkottoPostgraduate research studentCentre for Environmental Strategy,
University of Surrey
Jonathan ChenowethLecturerCentre for Environmental Strategy,
University of Surrey
Steve PedleySenior Research FellowRobens Centre for Public and Environmental Health, University of Surrey
Yacob MulugettaLecturerCentre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey


We have been awarded a two year knowledge transfership fellowship. The project will study the regulation of one of the world's largest groundwater reservoirs in the light of current developments in the international law on transboundary aquifers. At the same time it will strengthen a network of international researchers who will develop the Surrey Centre on the Regulation of Transboundary Aquifers.


The final goal of the project is to develop the pillars of  the Surrey Centre on the Regulation of Transboundary Aquifers (SCERTA). In the two years of the project we will focus on the Guarani Aquifer System (GAS) as a first case study that will enable us to consolidate a network of international experts that will lead the SCERTA in the future.

The GAS is one of the world’s largest groundwater reservoirs with an estimate reserve of between 40.000 and 80.000 cubic kilometres. It has a total surface of 1.200.000 square kilometres, which comprises part of the territories of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Its importance is evident from multiple points of view. Since its main use is for drinking purposes, the GAS is vital for human beings in the region.

While scientific work on the quality of the water in the aquifer has attracted attention from researchers, current work on the legal framework applicable to this special aquifer has not been analysed in depth. The goal of the two year KT fellowship project will be to monitor and analyse current efforts to manage the GAS, taking the Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development of the Guarani Aquifer System Project as a starting point.

We will take a twofold approach to this analysis: an international law and a regional/domestic law approach. On the one hand, the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) has been studying the question of aquifers from a universal perspective. In 2008 the ILC adopted a series of Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, which have been annexed to UN General Assembly 63/124 in 2008. The General Assembly has already included the topic of the law of transboundary aquifers on the agenda of its 66th session in 2011 with a view to discuss “the question of the form that might be given to the draft articles”. The KT fellowship project will feed in this international process by studying the extent to which the ILC draft articles are being taken into consideration in the current efforts to manage the GAS. On the other hand, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay have their own domestic legislative frameworks that may apply to their share of the GAS, which will also be monitored and studied throughout the project.


The Environmental Protection of the Guarani Aquifer: A Legal Perspective project was presented on September 30. Members of the project gave two presentations at the University of Surrey:

  • K. Mechlem, The International Law Commission´s Draft Articles on Transboundary Aquifers
  • A. Tanzi, Access to Water and Sanitation: Developments in International Water Law and Human Rights Law

On April 19, Francesco Sindico gave a presentation at the Faculty of Law of the University of São Paulo on his paper The Guarani Aquifer System and the Emerging International Law on Transboundary Aquifers.


Francesco SindicoLecturer in Law and Deputy Director of the Environmental Regulatory Research GroupSchool of Law, University of Surrey
Maria GavouneliAssistant Professor of International LawFaculty of Law, University of Athens
Kerstin MechlemLecturerUlster University, Belfast, Transitional Justice Institute
Attila TanziFull Professor of International LawFaculty of Law, University of Bologna
Annabel SymingtonFreelance JournalistN/A
Alejandro PastoriAdjunct Professor in Public International LawSchool of Law, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay
Zlata Drnas de ClementProfessor of International LawSchool of Law, Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentina


F. Costamagna and F. Sindico (2009) The Linkages Between Access to Water and Water Scarcity with International Investment Law and the WTO Regime, In P. Cullet et al. (eds.), Legal Aspects of Water Sector Reforms: New Delhi, Cambridge University Press.

Sindico F. (2007) Water export bans for environmental purposes before the WTO: a reflection of the difficult Relationship between trade and environment, Revue Hellenique de Droit International, Issue 60, pp. 153-172.

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