Institutional and management principles
1. Roles of government and official bodies at all levels should be clearly defined and areas of responsibility officially established
Management and service delivery functions need to be clearly identified and institutional responsibilities demarcated. Governments should provide a sound legal and policy framework for water resources management and facilitate service extension and provision. Governments are responsible for establishing and overseeing regulatory bodies; these bodies must be independent, transparent, accountable, and empowered to enforce regulations. All uses of water (environmental as well as consumption), and the roles of institutions involved in managing resources and providing services, need to be enshrined in law (see Part 3, Glossary). Service and quality criteria need to be similarly established within a regulatory framework.
At national level, governments have a responsibility to develop an integrated water policy, meeting the needs of the various users within the limits of available financial and environmental resources. While financial resources can be quantified with financial tools, the geographical and hydrological nature of water resources needs to be taken into account; catchment areas have been adopted as the most effective scale of management for overall water resources (surface, subsurface and recharge).
Effort should be made to verify that water policy is co-ordinated with other policies that have implications for water use – such as those for agriculture, health, industry, energy, environment and urban development. To this end, a system of co-ordination among those responsible in the different sectors at national level is needed. An effective co-ordinating body will enable competition between water uses to be resolved, in accordance with the national policy and agreed water resources development plan. While such coordinating bodies are not easily created within government structures or administrations, river basin organisations have been used as the platform to facilitate a coordinated approach to management.
One model for achievement of an integrated strategy the Sector Wide Approach (SWAp), which provides a framework for collaboration, harmonisation and analysis that promises to lead to more effective implementation and delivery of water services and better integrated management of water resources. SWAp aims to deliver these benefits by providing a methodology for assessing the sector, which systematically considers all the interrelated factors that influence performance and sustainability. SWAp is wide because it recognizes that success depends on a coordinated response where no single actor is likely to be able to deliver all that is needed. But an efficient SWAp is no wider than it needs to be. SWAPs have been slow to develop in the water sector, since the sector is more complex than other sectors such as education and health where the sector wide approach is more developed. At the same time a successful sector wide approach brings many benefits to the water sector precisely because the complexity of the sector requires multi-stakeholder dialogues, collaboration and coordination, and participation by all stakeholders including the state, the private sector and civil society
Many countries still implement water codes or water legislation that are outdated and are not always relevant to the challenges of today. They often do not take into account integrated water resources management and conservation, nor have they always been established through a participatory process. New laws, ratification and implementation of national and even international agreements coupled with enforcement procedures are required. As far as possible, they should be formulated permissively rather than restrictively to enable application without undue cost and administrative burden. One approach to reduce these burdens is by decentralising the various types of decision-making to the lowest, most appropriate, administrative tier. However, even though faced with challenges, costs and burdens, common references and minimum standards are still required and should always form the basis of new legislation, regulation and codes.
2. The structures and systems of management should be designed in such a way as to facilitate involvement by the responsible authorities at different levels
Participation by all stakeholders is essential for successful water management and usage. (See Part 3, Glossary.) Structures and practices of the responsible authorities therefore need to be designed to facilitate participation of the various categories of users including: water companies, industries, SMEs, farmers, domestic consumers, energy utilities, fisheries, transport and nature conservation organisations – and in doing so involve all major groups (equity mainstreaming). The contribution of civil society organisations who represent cross-cutting categories such as gender or education must also be included.
Responsibilities for water-related services and resource management need to be decentralised to the lowest appropriate administrative level according to the concept of subsidiarity; this allows the contributions of the various parties to be optimized. However, the necessary tools, capacity development incl. training and funds must first be allocated so that the resources are available for responsibilities to be fulfilled. Where responsible bodies have centralised and hierarchical command structures, they are often inadequately geared to consultation and interaction with stakeholders, especially users down to the community or household level. In such cases, organisational transformation may be necessary. On the one hand, functional responsibilities are best devolved to officials and bodies close to the realities of the situation, including local authorities, private and public companies and NGOs/ CSOs able to facilitate participation of users in decision-making, planning etc. On the other hand, the role of the public authority as regulator, facilitator and moderator is to develop an organisational culture that is outward-looking, to facilitate timely communication with all stakeholders. Therefore it is important that the division of responsibilities is well thought out and that decentralization does not become an automatic option that results in divesting central authorities of core responsibilities. The need and added value of capacity building to address administrative challenges is often a strong complement to redesigning management strategies for the central level and outwards.
3. Involvement of user organisations and the private sector, public – private and/or public/public partnerships should be encouraged
Partnerships with the private sector and or/public / communal sectors need to be encouraged and facilitated; this is especially relevant as government authorities decentralize progressively their responsibilities for the provision of services. In this context, the private sector is deemed to include informal or civil society groups involved in water services or management, such as Water User Associations, Committees or Farmer Associations.
The roles of the private sector actors will vary according to social, economic and environmental circumstances, but they should all be subject to regulation. A suitable relationship between public and private sectors needs to be defined which promotes the efficient operation of the facilities and collection of user fees while at the same time guarantees access and affordability to all users. Delivery of services and construction of installations may be organised through service providers which, whether publicly or privately owned and operated, can be autonomous, but still supervised and regulated by authority. At the same time, vulnerable populations – the under-served and underprivileged – need to be protected from exploitation by service providers operating largely for profit, since this sector of the population have little or no direct (consumer) influence. The principles of transparency, integrity, solidarity and equity are effective where all people and stakeholders are aware of their rights while at the same time acknowledge their responsibilities. Access to information allows users to make informed choices and to more effectively participate in the governance processes of water management and services.
Government-run water authorities and utilities companies can facilitate the transfer of technology to a wide range of private sector actors by promoting the development of local water supply, wastewater disposal and irrigation manufacturing and service industries. These industries can be large or small-scale and able to cater to the needs either of major publicly-financed schemes or micro-projects and private consumers. (See also Part 3)
Public-private partnerships (PPP) aim to combine the respective strengths of public and private partners. PPP projects are planned, financed and implemented jointly. The Private sector involvement is expected to achieve development policy objectives via the introduction of technological innovations, job creation, and improvement of production or delivery processes and thus contribute to the Millennium Development Goals. The Public sector involvement optimally maintains ownership and responsibility to ensure water services are equitably delivered and transparently managed. PPP schemes have faced some setbacks in the recent years mainly due to a lack of governance in the PPP process, including a lack of transparency compounded by unclear definitions of roles and responsibilities.
The Public-public partnerships (PUPs) involve two or more public authorities or organizations collaborating to improve the capacity and effectiveness of one partner in providing public water or sanitation services. PUPs should not be considered as an approach which is opposed to PPPs but rather as an alternative for achieving improvements in water management
4 Ongoing capacity building is needed within institutions and for participant groups at all levels
Capacity building, especially the development of human resources, the enhancement of skills, the adoption of up-to-date thinking, and improvement of the knowledge base, are needed in many institutions responsible for water resources management and services. Capacity building should extend to all levels of an organisation and to as wide a selection of stakeholders as is necessary. If a more active role in service design and implementation is envisaged for water users, the capacity of intermediary bodies, such as NGOs and local councils, may also need to be enhanced. This can include training in technical and organisational activities which allows actors to be able to make more effective decisions in management or maintenance as required.
An emphasis on ‘software’, as opposed to ‘hardware’, components of water-related projects requires that an orientation towards capacity building in these areas should be built into project design. Interpersonal skills such as communication, negotiation and leadership, as well as knowledge of project management, or environmental and public health activities are equally as important as the functional skills relating to building and managing installations. With the right encouragement and training, engineering staff can adopt more of a partnership approach to service delivery rather than a proprietary attitude towards schemes. However it is also important to understand that for capacity building on skills and knowledge to succeed, there will be required a minimum of resources and materials, or hardware, in order to realize the benefits of these skills. The point of balance between hardware and software is often in a process of movement and requires regular review by the management to ensure the best combination of the two.
5 Management systems should be transparent and accountable and appropriate management information systems should be established
Conditions for good water governance require participation, accountability, and transparency in order to achieve successful economic, social and environmental outcomes. This requires transparency and accountability from both formal and informal sectors associated with water management: be they governments, private sector, or non-governmental organisations
The responsible authorities, their partners and water users need to have confidence in their management systems and operating procedures. This can be addressed with training and information to promote the necessary understanding, but this is not always viable at all levels for all procedures to all stakeholders. Some elements of management may always remain internal but they must always be accessible. A balance needs to be struck between flexibility and accountability.
Consequently all financing and auditing procedures must be transparent. Tariff systems, systems of financial and quality control need to be rigorous in order to avoid the mismanagement or misapplication of funds that can be associated with large-scale investments in major construction works but also are relevant at village level water supply committees.
Management information systems are very useful but they need to be suitable for the organisational level at which the relevant data collection and analysis activities are conducted. Data collection needs to be monitored in such a way that it provides information of value to managers when they require it. Regular monitoring reinforces understanding of processes, helps to engender a sense of ownership of the system and ultimately ensures that it is effectively used. However one should not look for the solution in the technology of systems. Consideration needs to be given to the level of information technology required for different functions, given cost and human resources constraints. Not all systems have to be based on computer technology, though such technology does offer obvious advantages.