Water resource policy
Water resource policy encompasses the policy-making processes that have an impact on the collection, preparation, use and disposal of water to support human uses and protect environmental quality.
Water policy addresses provision, use, disposal and sustainability decisions. Provision includes identification, access, preparation for use and distribution. Uses include direct human consumption, agriculture, industry and ecosystem protection. Policy must set the rules for how water is allocated to the different uses. Disposal involves wastewater treatment and stormwater/flood management. Sustainability addresses issues such as aquifer depletion, reservoir management and mineral buildup.
"Supply isn't just about water production, it is also about distribution infrastructure.":9
A second dimension of issues addresses how policies are created, executed and amended. Since water resources often cross political boundaries, water policies must often be negotiated among multiple political entities (nations, states, etc.) Commentators such as Halcrow project resource wars as demand continues to increase.:27
Policy makers typically adopt a set of best management practices BMPs to govern water management. BMPs cover everything from dam construction to wastewater treatment protocols.
Water resource policies may encompass
"regions, catchments, shared or transboundary water resources, and inter-basin transfers. Policy leads management practices, but best management practices are identified, evaluated, modified and disseminated by policy making bodies."
Water resource policy issues are receiving increased attention as water shortages are believed to be at crisis levels in some regions. These regional crises have the potential worldwide implications.
Organizations such as the Global Water Policy Project have sprung up to promote awareness and prod governments and NGOs into heightened awareness of the problems.
- 1 Global water resource policy objectives
- 2 Institutional participants
- 3 Structural constraints on policy makers
- 4 Issues
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Global water resource policy objectives
According to the World Water Assessment Programme, a UN-sanctioned Task Force, the objectives for global water resource policies include developing a standardized method for monitoring water sector progress and performance, improving reporting and identifying priority actions. In all nations conflict between users are expected to intensify, complicating policy-making.
The 1977 Mar del Plata United Nations Conference on Water was the first intergovernmental water conference, leading to the 1980 Declaration of the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade by the UN General Assembly.
The United Nations Environmental Program hosts water resource policy-making agencies and disseminating BMPs worldwide. This role has been enhanced by various policy directives and other initiatives:
- UN General Assembly Resolution 3436 (XXX) Agenda 21
- 1997 Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP and
- 2000 Malmö Ministerial Declaration adopted at the First Global Ministerial Environment Forum.
- 2002 Earth Summit 2015 safe drinking water targets.
- 2007 World Bank report series on Environment and Development that in 2009 reported on Environmental Flows in Water Resources Policies, Plans, and Projects
Treaties between nations may enumerate policies, rights and responsibilities. For instance, a treaty between Poland and Germany, "An Agreement to establish cooperation on water resources management" provides:
- supply of drinking water of good quality,
- protection of surface water,
- supply of water to agriculture,
- fight against water pollution.
The Permanent Court of International Justice adjudicates disputes between nations, including water rights litigation.
Some non-governmental organizations have consultative status at the UN. One such group is the World Water Council, an "international multi-stakeholder platform" established in 1996 to act "at all levels, including the highest decision-making level...[in] protection, development, planning, management and use of water in all its dimensions...for the benefit of all life on earth." It was an outgrowth of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Dublin and at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. The Council is based in Marseilles. Its multi-stakeholder basis as due to the fact that "authority for managing the world's fresh water resources is fragmented amongst the world's nations, hundreds of thousands of local governments, and countless non-governmental and private organizations, as well as a large number of international bodies."
In 1994, the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) organized a special session on the topic in its Eighth World Water Congress held in Cairo in November 1994, leading to creation of the World Water Council.
Business water resource policy initiatives
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development engages stakeholders in H2OScenarios that consider various alternative policies and their impacts.
In June 2011 in Geneva, the Future of Water Virtual Conference addressed water resource sustainability. Issues raised included: water infrastructure monitoring, global water security, potential resource wars, interaction between water, energy, food and economic activity, the "true value" of "distribution portions of available water" and a putative "investment gap" in water infrastructure. It was asserted that climate change will impact scarcity of water but the water security presentation emphasized that a combined effect with population growth "could be devastating". Identified corporate water related risks include physical supply, regulatory and product reputation.:23
This forum indicated policy concerns with:
- trade barriers
- price supports
- treatment of water as a free good creates underpricing of 98% of water:2
- need to intensify debate
- need to harmonize public/private sectors:28
Structural constraints on policy makers
Policies are implemented by organizational entities created by government exercise of state power. However, all such entities are subject to constraints upon their autonomy.
Subject matter and geographic jurisdiction are distinguishable.
The jurisdiction of any water agency is limited by political boundaries and by enabling legislation.
In some cases, limits target specific types of uses (wilderness, agricultural, urban-residential, urban-commercial, etc.)
A second part of jurisdictional limitation governs the subject matter that the agency controls, such as flood control, water supply and sanitation, etc.
In many locations, agencies may face unclear or overlapping authority, increasing conflicts and delaying conflict resolution. For instance, recent changes in California law intended to reduce air quality problems from shipping have been interfered with by Federal legal changes intended to reduce the cost of shipping.
California water regulatory bodies
- Coastal Commission
- Coastal Conservancy
- Department of Fish & Game
- Department of Water Resources
- Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES)
- Ocean and Coastal Environmental Access Network (OCEAN)
- Resources Agency Wetlands Information System
- State Water Resources Control Board
- Public Health Departments
- Water districts
Typical information access issue
Water can produce a natural disaster in the form of tsunamis, hurricanes, rogue waves and storm surge. Land-based floods can originate from bursting dams, rivers overflowing their banks or levee failure.
One jurisdiction's projects may cause problems in other jurisdictions. For instance, Monterey County, California controls a body of water that acts as a reservoir for San Luis Obispo County. The specific responsibilities for managing the resource must therefore be negotiated.
Surface and groundwater
Surface water and groundwater can be studied and managed as separate resources as a single resource in multiple forms. Jurisdictions typically distinguish three recognized groundwater classifications: subterranean streams, underflow of surface waters, and percolating groundwater.
Drinking water and water for utilitarian uses such as washing, crop cultivation and manufacture is competed for by various constituencies:
- Agriculture. "Many rural people practice subsistence rain fed agriculture as a basic livelihood strategy, and as such are vulnerable to the impacts of drought or flood that can diminish or destroy a harvest. "
- Municipal or institutional activities
Seawater resources are important for ethical-aesthetic reasons, recreation, tourism, maintenance of fisheries. The sea is a venue for shipping and for oil and mineral extraction that creates a need for regulatory policy. A variety of issues confronts policy makers.
Ballast water, fuel/oil leaks and trash originating from ships foul harbors, reefs and estuaries. Ballast water may contain toxins, invasive plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria.
Oil rigs and undersea mineral extraction can create problems that impact shorelines, marine life, fisheries and human safety. Decommissioning of such operations has another set of issues. Rigs-to-reefs is a proposal for using obsolete oil rigs as substrate for coral reefs that has failed to reach consensus.
Surface water (runoff) and wastewater discharge
Regulatory bodies address piped waste water discharges to surface water that include riparian and ocean ecosystems. These review bodies are charged with protecting wilderness ecology, wildlife habitat, drinking water, agricultural irrigation and fisheries. Stormwater discharge can carry fertilizer residue and bacterial contamination from domestic and wild animals. They have the authority to make orders which are binding upon private actors such as international corporations and do not hesitate to exercise the police powers of the state. Water agencies have statutory mandate which in many hurisdictions is resilient to pressure from constituents and lawmakers in which they on occasion stand their ground despite heated opposition from agricultural interests On the other hand, the Boards enjoy strong support from environmental concerns such as Greenpeace,Heal the Ocean and Channelkeepers.
Water quality issues or sanitation concerns reuse or water recycling and pollution control which in turn breaks out into stormwater and wastewater.
Surface runoff is water that flows when heavy rains do not infiltrate soil; excess water from rain, meltwater, or other sources flowing over the land. This is a major component of the water cycle. Runoff that occurs on surfaces before reaching a channel is also called a nonpoint source. When runoff flows along the ground, it can pick up soil contaminants including, but not limited to petroleum, pesticides, or fertilizers that become discharge or nonpoint source pollution.
Wastewater is water that has been discharged from human use. The primary discharges flow from the following sources:
- commercial properties
Sewage is technically wastewater contaminated with fecal and similar animal waste byproducts, but is frequently used as a synonym for wastewater. Origination includes cesspool and sewage outfall pipes.
Water treatment is subject to the same overlapping jurisdictional constraints which affect other aspects of water policy. For instance, levels of chloramines with their resulting toxic trihalomethane by-product are subject to Federal guidelines even though water management implementing those policy constraints are carried out by local water boards.
- Biotic index
- Clean Water Act
- Commodification of water
- Drinking water quality in the United States
- Energy law
- International Water Management Institute
- Marine Protection area
- United Nations Environmental Programme
- Water efficiency
- Water law in the United States
- Water management hierarchy
- Waterkeeper Alliance
- WELS rating
- Wet Infrastructure
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