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a. Comparative Analysis of the Four Case Studies
b. Summary of the Country Experiences

9. A detailed account of the experience of, respectively, Mexico, Uganda, South Africa and Sri Lanka is presented as case studies appended to the main body of this publication. Table 1 offers a comparative synopsis of these case studies. The following aspects are highlighted:

· main implementation issue;

· institutional and legal4 framework;

4 FAO Legal Office database FAOLEX ( may be consulted for an abstract and the text of published water laws in most countries.

· implementation issues, constraints and new approaches to overcoming the constraints;

· main features of a workplan to implement the water rights administration system, before and after enactment of the new water legislation; and

· lessons drawn from the experience in each case.

a. Comparative Analysis of the Four Case Studies

10. Table 1 can be read by rows. The first block states the main implementation issue in each country. The second block refers to the water resources institutional features that influence water rights administration; constitutional features that determine water rights administration and dates when water laws and regulations were adopted in each country. The third block shows the core of the experience in each country, namely issues and constraints and new approaches to overcoming them. The fourth block describes the main activities of a workplan for implementation that has been recommended for each country, grouped in two sets: activities to be carried out before and after enactment of the water law. It is interesting to note that in the Mexican and Ugandan cases no explicit activities to prepare for implementation were recommended since their respective laws had already been enacted by the time the author got involved in each country. Finally, the fifth block constitutes a set of lessons learned from each case. The Mexican case presents the largest number of lessons mainly because implementation of new legislation started earlier than in the other countries and the closer contact of the author to this case. The following three lessons are common to the four case studies and should be highlighted:

Implementation of a water rights administration system is a lengthy process whose duration must be measured in decades, not in years.

Anticipation pays!

The most important activity for achieving sustainable implementation is capacity building

Table 1 - Main Characteristics and Issues of the Four Countries Studied and Lessons Drawn from them

1. Mexico

2. Uganda

3. South Africa

4. Sri Lanka

Main implementation issue


Water legislation did not provide for enough time to register existing users.

Some inconsistencies in water regulations and meager institutional capacity.

First drafts of water law did not address implementation needs.

The first Water Resources Act and Regulations drafts were written mainly from the Government’s perspective, not from the user’s perspective.


Government water resources institutions

· The National Water Commission (NWC), created in 1989 is the sole federal water authority in the country. It belongs to the Ministry of Environment.

· The Technical Committee, chaired by the Minister of Environment and with participation of heads of other water-related ministries, the Minister of Finance and the Comptroller Minister, acts as the steering body of the NWC.

· NWC has 32 state agencies and 13 river basin-based agencies.

· The Directorate of Water Development (DWD) is responsible for enforcement of the Water Statute and Water Resources Regulations. It will also be in charge of Waste Discharge Regulations after this function is delegated by the National Environment Management Agency (NEMA).

· A Water Policy Committee shall be established, in accordance with the Water Statute.

· The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) belongs to the Ministry of same name.

· The role of the DWAF is the formulation of policy and the drafting of legislation, including water quantity and quality.

· The day-to-day responsibility for water resource management will be gradually delegated to national, catchment, local or area level institutions and water users’ associations.

· The Water Resources Secretariat (WRS) is leading the modernization of water resources management in Sri Lanka.

· The National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) will be responsible for policy formulation, planning and water rights administration.

· Water resources development would be the responsibility of sector development agencies.

· Water quality management, including the granting of wastewater discharge permits, would fall under the Central Environment Authority (CEA).

Constitutional features

· Adopted in 1917.

· Water is national property.

· Water can be used only through concession granted by the Federal Executive.

· The Federal Executive has power to establish and suppress prohibitions to use national water.

· Adopted in 1995.

· The State shall protect water on behalf of the people of Uganda; ensure that all Ugandans have access to clean and safe water; and promote a good water management system at all levels.

· The importance of capacity building and decentralization is recognized.

· Adopted in 1996.

· The State is responsible for taking legislative and other measures to achieve access for everyone to sufficient water.

· The Constitution states that water is fundamental for the environment and human life, but recognizes well being and equity cannot be achieved overnight.

· Adopted in 1978.

· The State shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.

· calls The Thirteenth amendment of 1987 for devolution of some water-related responsibilities to the Provinces.

New water legislation enactment dates

· The National Waters Law (NWL) replaced in 1992 the 1972 Federal Water Law. Ample social and political consensus was previously achieved.

· NWL Regulations (NWLR) adopted in 1994.

· Water Statute (WS): 1995 (following approval of Water Action Plan (WAP) which advocated for a simple & gradual approach to water rights management).

· Water Resources Regulations (WRR): 1998.

· Waste Discharge Regulations (WDR): 1998.

· National Water Act (NWA): 1998 following nation-wide discussion of White Paper, replaced the 1956 Water Act.

· Sections related to water use allocation and licensing were planned to be brought into effect in Oct. 1999. By that time required regulations and procedures were expected to be ready.

· The National Water Resources Policy (NWRP) has been approved in 2000.

· The Water Resources Act and Regulations are being drafted in parallel.


Issues and constraints

· NWL and NWLR came into effect next day after publication.

· In 1992 only 2,000 out of an estimated 300,000 users had a concession.

· NWL & NWLR provided only for 3 years for existing users to register.

· 44 outdated and unrealistic effluent standards.

· Large users had incurred huge arrears in the payment of water charges.

· Cross subsidies among water user sectors.

· Decrease in water investments due to financial crisis in the 80s.

· Determination of concession applications proved difficult during the first implementation years because of insufficient information on water uses and availability.

· Given that the NWL provides for 5-50 year duration concessions, the lack of criteria to select a specific duration could lead to arbitrary use of discretionary power.

· Insufficient information on quantity and quality of water availability and incomplete users’ register hinder the formation and functioning of water markets.

· Huge and interrelated amount of data to be managed.

· Applications for water permits received as of September 98 were not properly filed and safeguarded.

· Determination of permit applications will be difficult during the first implementation years because of insufficient information on water uses and availability.

· While the WS follows the WAP’s simplicity and gradual approach, the WRR and WDR do not.

· The one year period provided for in the WRR for “lawful” existing users to register is too short.

· Current draft effluent standard is unrealistic.

· WDR do not provide for a registration period for wastewater dischargers; do not specify waste discharge permit duration, and cannot be applied by DWD before NEMA delegates power.

· Some internal contradictions among sections of the WDR.

· Lack of clarity in some aspects of the water legislation.

· Bureaucratic restrictions keep the Water Right Administration Unit understaffed.

· The first drafts of the NWA provided for establishing resource quality objectives and for a Reserve (basic human and environmental needs). Technical determination of both concepts is complex, can take a long time, and this could lead to and excuse delays. However, if these two concepts are provided for in the law, they should be promptly acted upon, lest credibility and confidence in the law be lost.

· Implementation issues had not been addressed in the early drafting stages.

· Even though the NWRA is expected to participate in river basin planning, national water resources development programs carried out by development agencies might be inconsistent with national objectives and water allocation policy.

· The integrated approach advocated by the NWRP may be hindered if the CEA does not delegate authority to grant wastewater discharge permits to the NWRA.

· Several sections of the draft WRA were deemed by the author to be difficult for the NWRA to enforce or for the users and applicants to comply with.

· Determination of permit applications will be difficult during the first implementation years because of insufficient information on water uses and availability.

Responses to issues and approaches to overcoming constraints

· Presidential decrees extended registration period, simplified procedures, pardoned arrears of payment of water charges to users who registered, and determined all concessions should be issued for a period of 10 years. As a result of this approach, by March 99, of the updated estimate of 370,000 users, 241,000 had obtained their concessions, which were recorded in the WRPR.

· One single, realistic and gradual effluent standard replaced 44 standards.

· Substantial water charges collection has induced more rational industrial location and wastewater treatment plants construction.

· Water rights trading was promoted only after all users in river basin were registered.

· Water rights have been separated from land property to promote water rights trading.

· Information systems have started with a simple approach and have been gradually improved.

A filing manual was developed and UNESCO’s Isis database is being used to organize the paperwork.

The following proposals were made:

· carry out a planning seminar to establish “blue” and “red” areas1 to simplify decision making;

· issue realistic effluent standard;

· delegate waste discharge regulatory functions to DWD;

· issue Legislative Provisions (LP) to overcome contradictions and simplify existing legislation; and

· issue User and Applicant Manual in layperson language to facilitate understanding of WS, WRR and LP, which are all interrelated.

· The NWA provides for a two-step approach for determining resource quality objectives and the Reserve. (rough estimates for most cases and sophisticated methods for water-stressed areas)

· The DWAF appointed a “Policy Implementation Task Team” to anticipate systems and capacity required for water use licensing. Its feedback to the drafting team provided insights useful to prepare more realistic drafts.

· It was recommended that the Water Resources Council advise the Minister on annual budget proposals.

· If delegation of CEA to NWRA proves unfeasible, it would then be necessary to design the required coordination procedures.

· The drafting of a user and applicant manual at this early stage allowed detecting inconsistencies in the draft Act and proposing amendments that have been incorporated. It was recommended that the WRS complete the manual and draft a similar one from the NWRA’s viewpoint in order to detect further flaws in the draft that might hinder enforcement.

· The adopted WRA should provide for starting of implementation after the Regulations have been issued and first versions of guidelines, procedures, information system and organizational arrangements have been developed.

· “Blue” and “red” areas defined through a planning exercise with available information would simplify review and determination of permit applications.


Activities prior to enactment

· Intensive preparation for implementation started immediately after the NWL enactment.

· Implementation requirements were addressed only after the WRR and WDR were issued.

Thanks to the provision in the NWA empowering the Minister to bring different sections into effect at different times, the period to carry out the groundwork required for implementation could be extended more than one year after enactment. The main programmed activities from November 1997 to October 1999 were:

· preparation of regulations, systems and procedures for licensing;

· preparation of information system;

· integration in hypertext of NWA and relevant legal documents;

· detailed design of implementation program;

· setting up of organizational arrangements;

· design of capacity building program and launching of training at all levels; and

· paper simulation of licensing procedures.

(A four-year workplan has been proposed but, taking into account experiences in Mexico and Uganda, it could take much longer.)

· departing from the existing draft Regulations, it is expected that two additional versions would be prepared prior to adoption by late 2000;

· 1999-2000: Preparation of first version of implementation procedures and guidelines (PG), information system (IS) and organizational arrangements (OA);

· 1999-2000: Preparation of capacity building program, including a twinning approach with external support groups to complement NWRA capacity;

· 1999-2000: Preparation of implementation strategy;

· implementation simulation on paper; and

· preparation of second version of PG and OA.

Activities following enactment

· 15 -year duration (1996-2006)

· Objective: prepare stage for sustainable development.

· 1996-1999: Registration of water uses and discharges, establishment of river basin councils.

· 1996-2001: Water quantity & quality databases improvement.

· 1997-2007: Establishment of river basin and aquifer regulations, with users’ participation.

· 1999-2010: Substantial increase in wastewater treatment.

· 1999-2010: Reinforcement of water abstraction and discharge monitoring.

· 1997-2010: Capacity building.

· Immediate actions: provide adequate staff and facilities to the WRAU, and implement proposals in box above.

· 1999: Registration of existing users. Extend period if necessary;

· 1999-2000: Prepare implementation systems and procedures; determine applications with a case by case approach.

· 1999- : Set up capacity building program, including twinning approach through national consulting firms to complement the WRAU’s capacity.

· 2000-2004: Registration of existing wastewater dischargers and thereafter gradual effluent standard compliance.

· 2001-: Determine applications following systems and procedures.

· Prioritize licensing of different users’ groups in accordance with the national policy of redressing inequities.

· Prioritize the declaration of water management areas and establishment of catchment agencies in order to set up a realistic implementation program.

· Establish permanent training as a first-priority activity so that DWAF personnel will be equipped to deal with the new system of participatory water resources management.

· 2000-: Implementation of a permanent capacity building program

· 2001: Pilot implementation and field testing in a first group of selected catchments and aquifers.

· 2001: Preparation of third version of PG and OA and second version of IS.

· 2002: Implementation in a second group of selected catchments and aquifers.

· 2002: Assessment of experience in order to define next steps.

· 2003: Nation-wide implementation.


· A well-tuned balance of regulatory, economic and participatory instruments has supported water rights administration.

· Political support at the highest level has made it possible to implement a water rights administration system.

· Implementation has been facilitated by adequate systems and procedures, a “users and wastewater dischargers model”, and by integrating in hypertext the water legislation and relevant legal documents. However, there is room for improving quality control.

· Consistency has been achieved because single authority issues both water use concessions and wastewater discharge permits of surface and groundwater. However, the process could be improved by integrating in a single organizational unit within said authority the technical and administrative functions related to water rights administration.

· Monitoring of water abstractions and wastewater discharges require capacity building that should be anticipated early enough.

· Training is indispensable, but must be complemented with enabling working environment to retain qualified personnel.

· Implementation issues should be anticipated and some leeway allowed between water legislation enactment and its coming into effect.


· If implementation issues are not anticipated during the drafting process and capacity building started early enough, the result may be water legislation that is very difficult to implement.

· Early anticipation of implementation issues has led to:

* Establishment of an implementation unit, which interacted with the drafting team.

* Realistic provisions in the National Water Act, by recognizing regional differences within the country and need for a gradual implementation.

* Provision in the NWA for simplified procedures for determining conservative values for the Reserve for basic human needs and the environment, until better information is available to support more sophisticated and reliable procedures.

* Preparation of implementation tools, such as information systems and guidelines and procedures.

* Setting up of a capacity building program.

· The unique approach of simultaneous drafting of the WRA and Regulations has permitted to make a timely assessment of the water authority’s enforcement capacity.

· Also, the early drafting of a user and applicant manual is helping to test consistency and clarity of draft legislation. At the same time, it is a good capacity building tool.


· Water rights administration within river basin boundaries will require local technical and managerial capacity as well as adequate coordination between water managers and state governors..

· implementation of a water rights administration system is a lengthy process whose duration must be measured in decades, not in years;

· anticipation pays!; and

· the most important activity for achieving sustainable implementation is capacity building.

1 “Blue” areas are those areas where, under available information, development should be encouraged because of sufficient water availability and a relatively low degree of pollution. “Red” areas are those areas where, under available information, no water permits or wastewater discharge permits should be granted because of water pollution, scarcity of water or conflicts among water users.

b. Summary of the Country Experiences

11. Table 1 can also be read by columns as a route map for each country’s experience:


12. The water law and regulations came into effect in December 1992 and January 1994, respectively (the day after their respective publication in the Official Gazette) and provided for only a three-year period to register the estimated 370,000 existing users. This period was insufficient, so in 1995 and 1996 the President of the Republic issued decrees to extend it and pardon the arrears of water charges owed by those who applied for water abstraction and wastewater discharge permits. Water legislation provides for 5 to 50-year permit duration. However, according to the 1996 decrees, all applicants were issued 10-year permits. This is a short enough duration for the Government to be able to rectify a grant when users ask for permit renewal, but long enough to improve information on water availability (taking into account both quantity and quality) and on water uses, in order to make a decision based on adequate studies.

13. Thanks to the presidential decrees, mass media campaigns and hundreds of meetings with water users, by March 1999 241,000 users had been granted abstraction permits, which were recorded in the Water Rights Public Register. At that time it was expected to complete the registration of existing users by the year 2000. The fact that all applicants were granted permits without carrying out water balance studies may be considered as an “ecological price” that had to be paid because in some of the river basins and aquifers where permits were granted, water is scarce. This “ecological price” will make it possible to register all existing users in order to be able to set the stage for sustainable water resources development and management.


14. The Water Statute was enacted in 1995, that is, the same year the new Constitution was adopted. Such enactment followed the simple and gradual approach to water resources management advocated by the Ugandan Water Action Plan, which was adopted also in 1995. However, the Water Rights Administration Unit (WRAU) was grossly understaffed and this fact made it impossible for the Unit to establish a fruitful dialogue with the draftspersons in charge of preparing the Water Resources Regulations (WRR) and Wastewater Discharge Regulations (WDR), which were issued in 1998. As a result, some contradictions and loopholes, which make implementation difficult, were found in these regulations. For instance, while the WRR provide for one year for existing users to register, the WDR do not provide for a transition period. Also, the current draft effluent standard is unrealistic because it does not take into account the laboratory capacity in the country.

15. Some legislative provisions have been drafted to overcome the problems in the regulations mentioned above, as well as a User and Applicant Manual to make legislation easier to understand. It has been also recommended to follow the “blue and red area approach” described in guideline G14 below. The Government has resorted to some provisions to improve the WRAU staffing. However, this unit will have to be complemented by external support. Therefore, the proposed capacity building program includes a twinning approach in order to simultaneously train civil servants and national consulting firms.

16. The main lesson to be drawn from the Mexican and Ugandan experiences is that implementation even under difficult conditions is possible, but it becomes more difficult when legislation has to be improved and major efforts invested in capacity building simultaneously.

South Africa

17. South Africa’s water sector reform should be seen as part of the dramatic political change that has taken place in the country since 1994. The main objectives of these reforms are the equitable allocation of water resources. In 1995, the Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry embarked on a process of reviewing South Africa’s existing water law, with the objective of developing a new law that reflects the values of the new Constitution and the limits to the country’s water resources.

18. During the preparation of the fourth draft of the National Water Bill, the experience of other countries in preparing a new law was sought, with the assistance of the FAO. One of the main recommendations was to establish an implementation team with the task of anticipating what implementing the Bill, once it became an Act, would require. The close interaction of the drafting and implementation teams led to the detection of possible implementation problems in early drafts and the preparation of a capacity building program well before enactment.

19. There are at least two important features of the National Water Act that will make implementation feasible. One is that water use permits will be required only in water stressed areas, thus providing for a realistic and gradual approach to the regulation of water resources abstraction. The other is that the Act empowers the Minister to bring different sections into effect at different times. The latter feature has allowed spending more than one year after enactment to carry out the groundwork required for implementation.

Sri Lanka

20. The Water Resources Secretariat is leading the modernization of water resources management in Sri Lanka. The following parallel activities have been undertaken: (i) drafting and discussing the National Water Resources Policy and the Water Resources Act; (ii) drafting the Water Resources Regulations; and (iii) drafting a user and applicant manual to analyze the legislation drafts from their viewpoint. This approach has been very useful, because the two-way feedback which has resulted has improved the draft legislation. It has also helped in making a timely assessment of the water authority’s capacity building requirements.

21. The Policy has been approved in early 2000. The Water Resources Secretariat has approved an implementation workplan, which includes “pre-enactment” and “post-enactment” activities. The first group of activities includes preparing a first version of “implementation tools” such as guidelines, procedures, information systems, user manuals and organizational arrangements. These would be tested and improved by simulating implementation on paper. The process would assist in preparing a realistic capacity building program.

22. The draft Water Act provides for a gradual approach to implementation. This is an asset, which makes inclusion in the post-enactment activities of pilot testing on a few selected catchments and aquifers possible, thus providing the opportunity for further improving the implementation tools before nation-wide and fully-fledged implementation begins.

23. The main lesson to be drawn from the South African and Sri Lanka experiences is that anticipation pays.

Towards a set of guidelines

24. In Mexico the main issue was that water legislation did not provide for enough time to register existing users. In Uganda, the water regulations which emerged showed some inconsistencies and institutional capacity turned out to be very meager. The issue in South Africa was that the first drafts of the National Water Bill did not address implementation needs. And, in the case of Sri Lanka, the first draft of the Water Resources Act and of Regulations was written mainly from the Government’s perspective, with little regard to the users’ needs. Reading again Table 1 by rows provides insights into a first approach to implementation guidelines, which are presented in the next chapter.

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