Yemen has a long history of suffering from water scarcity. These issues formed the basis for the agricultural norms and traditions to regulate water distribution including maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure. In the disputed areas under research, the people mainly rely on traditional rules (Urf) and informal agreements to regulate the rights and restrictions of water access, use and distribution. These rules are unwritten and are specific to the areas covered by the assessment since there may be other rules outside these areas.

This assessment concerned three sources of water:

  • Surface or flood water: There are restrictions concerning the distribution of water, but they are in many cases out-dated as they do not accommodate for the presence of permanent structures (check dams) and the impact of these structures on groundwater recharge and hence the availability of drinking water.
  • Groundwater: Historically, for groundwater rules are not specified, though in several cases a distance rule is used, which in the water law is specified as a distance of at least 500m between wells. In some cases some new informal rules have been developed, for example regarding the purpose for which the water may be applied, who is allowed to use it, and embargo zones.
  • Subsurface flow: Subsurface flow is the water in-between the surface water and the groundwater. Any physical interference, for example through the construction of impermeable structures in ephemeral streams, may have large impacts on the available surface and groundwater downstream. Nevertheless, this source is often overlooked and consequently, no formal water rights or allocation rules have been formulated for subsurface flow.
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