Effective reform depends on water governance capacity
In most countries, policies and laws related to water management have accumulated over time deriving from different philosophies and approaches, and have never been reconciled. Reforming policies and laws into a cohesive package is a difficult and time-consuming task, which depends on political will and opportunities, on leadership, and on a country's capacity to govern its waters.
Water governance capacity is a means to an end
Water governance capacity reflects a society's level of competence to implement effective water arrangements through policies, laws, institutions, regulations, and compliance mechanisms. Without a clear policy, it is difficult to develop a coherent system of laws. Without a clear established legal structure, it is difficult for institutions to know how to operate. Without effective institutions, compliance and enforcement are likely to be lax.
Balanced water governance capacity is the key to providing effective water management
A country needs to develop each of the components of water governance capacity – policy, law, institutions (and implement them) to achieve a system of effective water governance. There is no blueprint solution. Achieving a balance of capacity (rather than areas of strengths and weaknesses) through reform is a country-specific process.
Water policy should be based on a vision and strategic planning
It can be helpful to set out goals or principles for water policy in advance of actually determining the policy. A written water policy might contain a background section explaining the need for the policy, a statement of purpose, a vision statement, a statement of scope, a set of definitions, an effective date, one or more statements of policy, and a section on responsibilities regarding who will carry out the policies.
Water policy framework is consolidated by water law
For water management to be compelling over time, it needs a policy that defines principles, actors and processes. These can then be moved to an enforceable set of decision-making requirements through the law.
Understanding water policy arrangements is essential for a successful reform
Not all policy arrangements are suited to every water management situation. Understanding which water issue can be best solved with which type of policy arrangement is key for successful water reform. An authoritative policy is usually linked to macro projects dealing with national security or economic development. A pluralistic-liberal approach works best with parties that are closely linked to a specific geographic area such as a river basin, whereas a decentralized-communitarian water policy is suitable for periods of change and innovation.
Good water laws provide a structure for effective water management
Laws should form the backbone of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). Well drafted laws offer predictability, and a precise yet flexible structure through which obligations are laid down, with rights which can be enforced and protected.
The water legal system must be coherent at all levels
National water legislation must reflect national policy as well as the commitments made by States under international agreements on rivers, lakes and ground waters. It must set out the coordination mechanisms across sub-national boundaries and jurisdictions.
A modern legal regime for water is comprehensive and includes efficiency, equity and sustain-ability considerations
A unified code of water law must establish water rights and fair allocations, protect water quality for human and ecosystem uses as defined by water policy, and set up an institutional water management structure.
Codification promotes legal certainty and increases efficiency
A unified code for water expresses a decisive political commitment. Consolidation promotes a more effective legal structure by avoiding the trouble of issues being overlooked, and the complications and confusions of having to navigate through numerous and often inconsistent pieces of legislation.
Well set-up river basin institutions are key for national water management
In order to coordinate upstream-downstream water allocations and uses, and to maintain healthy ecosystems throughout the watershed, it is necessary to work at the river basin level. When setting up a river basin institution, a clear mandate, a long-term strategy, and a clear organizational structure must be established.
Coordination rather than merely decentralization
The critical issue is not to centralize or decentralize institutions, but to coordinate the work of a multiplicity of them with jurisdiction over different water management sectors, following a common vision and plan.
Public engagement in water management enhances water governance
Civil society participation helps to create networks of arrangements for water management, generate trust and empowerment among stakeholders, and create respect and support for water decision making. Participation is the basis for commitment to, and coherence in, implementation of effective water governance.
What cannot be privatized
The stewardship function of water management cannot be privatized. Thus, policy-making and bargaining processes, legislation, decentralization, institutional management of government agencies and regulatory functions must remain public responsibilities.
Water Governance Capacity must be enabled
A country's Water Governance Capacity (WGC) can be properly displayed in an enabling environment characterized by transparency, certainty, accountability and the lack of corruption.
Economic instruments provide an alternative mechanism for effective compliance
Compliance with, and enforcement of, water law can be enhanced using regulations to establish appropriate incentive mechanisms that support and enable compliance by stakeholders. Incentive mechanisms include taxation, subsidies, and payment schemes for watershed services.
Enforcement mechanisms ensure stakeholder security in cases of non-compliance
Inclusion of enforcement mechanisms in the water law (punitive sanctions, prior notice and abatement measures, monitoring and inspection) ensures that justice can be reached when a contravention of the water law occurs.
An efficient judicial system is a key reinforcement for implementing water governance
Effective enforcement of water legislation is rendered by properly funded and resourced administrative mechanisms overseen by accessible and affordable judicial systems.
Building Water Governance Capacity is an ongoing socio-political process
Improving a country's water governance capacity does not end with the adoption of a new policy or the enactment of a new law. Decision makers and water managers should assess the capacity of the administration to internalize and to act to implement the reform, and plan the necessary upgrades ahead of the adoption of new rules.
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