As put by UNDP (2004) water is life, for people and for the planet, essential for the well-being of humankind and a basic requirement for the healthy functioning of all the world’s ecosystems. Morever, it was realized that (integrated) water management should go hand in hand with effective water governance. Guatemala’s legal and administrative water regime dates, by and large, from the 1970’s, while proper implementation is still in its infancy. Still, various micro-regions of Guatemala’s core-area created a form of water management and –governance experiments, frequently at the initiative of local stakeholders and backed by the local community. This study focuses on water management and - governance on the colonization frontier of Guatemala, i.e. the Lake Petén Itzá water basin, with a bio-physical and socio-economic perspective strongly differs from the countries’ core region. The central research question of the study asks whether the Lake Petén Itzá water basin is indeed possessing an (integrated) system of water management and -governance, and what this implies for the sustainable development of this resource. Main findings and implications are that, in Guatemala implementing water management and – governance is still in an incipient phase, carried by government-related institutions, while the contribution of civil society and private sector is still far from blossoming. In the process, many of the inherent characteristics of ‘good governance’ are only weakly developed. Petén Itzá Lake is a fragile system, highly vulnerable to pollution for the rising population pressure; is a ‘young territory’, still immersed in a process of formation and consolidation. In this migratory-based society the social fractures are relatively strong and the differences of interest between the stakeholders are quite pronounced. Moreover, available (governmental) institutions are relatively weak and inefficient, and operating as a rule of thumb in highly fragmented, un-coordinated ways. Participation of civil society and private sector is rather thin. In resume, Lake Petén Itzá water basin does boast the set of agents and actors which could, together, bring about suitable and accepted measures for water management and –governance. In confronting the region’s development demands (including water management and –governance), it will be of utmost importance to bridge, reconcile and integrate the interests of the parties involved, as well as to formulate coherent development goals for the basin as a whole. To that end, the tasks, budgets and responsibilities of the public and private actors will have to be more clearly defined and arranged, while ensuring the legitimate participation of local civil society and private sector. Moreover, building on the experiences with the formation of the so-called mancomunidades, a newly created water basin development authority should become responsible for integrated water management and –governance in the region, including the acquisition and prioritization of investment funds, in which prime attention will have to be paid to the safeguarding of the (future) water quality in the Lake area, and the extension of (piped) water facilities to the populations in the smaller communities on or near the waterfront
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