The paper presents and discusses different approaches to water management, termed “state centred”, “market-based” and “community-based”. Each provides different answers to how and by whom limited water resources best could and should be managed. They are based on different development ideologies and advocated by different professions. The article elaborates on the strengths, limitations and compatibility of the three models. These models provide a basis for discussing national water policy and water management reforms in Tanzania as well as the more practical implications of this in one of the main river basins in the country: the Pangani River Basin. Central to the water management problem in this basin are conflicts between communities and the water bureaucracy over what constitutes “proper” management of water. The policy and the activities of the river basin authorities continue to reflect a traditional top-down bureaucratic approach to water management, with colonial roots. The water legislation and the formal water management system seem neither to be set up to facilitate the active participation of local communities in water management, nor to facilitate the development of a water market.

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