Introduction Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Kyrgyz Republic has been reforming the management of its water sector. In order to analyse this reform process we will refer to the set of factors that Saleth and Dinar (2000) have drawn up, which enable water sector reforms. In their article on institutional change in water management they analysed the reforms in 11 countries. The result was a set of push factors, which promote water policy reforms and institutional change. They distinguish between endogenous and exogenous factors. Amongst the endogenous factors the following are important in the Kyrgyz context. Despite the fact that the Kyrgyz Republic is located in the upstream region of many Central Asian rivers and thus can be characterized as water abundant, water scarcity is a severe and growing problem in several regions of the country. In most parts of the Kyrgyz Republic water quality is a serious issue of concern. Water quantity problems occur in the southern parts of the country. The latter is especially the case with regard to water availability in the agricultural sector, which depends heavily on irrigation. This situation is going to be aggravated in the future since climate change is likely to change river flow regimes and to reduce the availability of water resources. Climate change will thus add pressure to a growing problem (IPCC 2001: 548). Deficient irrigation infrastructure, poor water management and low incentives for water saving constitute the main reasons for water scarcity and (as a consequence) conflicts over water in the country (Herrfahrdt et al. 2006: 16). Water scarcity, water stealing and inequitable water distribution are among the main reasons for conflicts over water in the Kyrgyz Republic (Herrfahrdt et al. 2006: 126-128). They increase the opportunity costs of water governance reform. In line with water scarcity problems in the southern Kyrgyz Republic conflicts over water at the local level are widespread especially when it comes to irrigation water. Conflicts over water between groups and individuals (e.g. quarrels between upstream and downstream users) are reported to peak at the beginning of the agricultural season and before melting snow from the mountains provides enough run-off in the rivers (Bichsel n.d.: 80).