In many parts of the world, there have been strong traditions of managing water and aquatic ecosystems as a community resource. But those institutions have been frequently weakened by increasing population, by excessive government intervention, and by the encroachment of powerful external commercial interests. Such external controls can lead to local resentment, and may encourage local misuse of aquatic resources because they are no longer its stewards. In these cases, restoration of original community control can be very difficult. Communities may be given partial control by participatory planning, which draws heavily on people's knowledge of land and water resources in their immediate locality. It is considered that aquatic resource management can improve by giving the local community control over it, for reasons such as valuable local knowledge and increased local responsible use that may come with stewardship.
Successful community-level programmes to provide safe drinking water and sanitation include the Hinduja Foundation's "Drinking Water for the Millions" in India; and AFOTEC's "Health, education and training for low-cost water supply and sanitation technologies" in West-Africa.