This paper focuses on empirically assessing determinants of river basin management decentralization, which is poorly understood while growing in popularity world wide. Measuring decentralization as a shift of decision making responsibility to water users or governments at the river basin level or below, the analysis sheds light on the decentralization reform process and its success, using primary data from 83 river basins world wide. Contrary to common perception water scarcity is found to be a stimulus to reform and financially endowed or developed basins do not outperform poor an underdeveloped basins; conditions improving decentralization performance include: existence of dispute resolution mechanisms; greater financial responsibility of users; and external government financial support of basin budget.


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