World Bank, Washington D.C., USA
Issues and problems
Objectives and interest groups
Need for regulation, conservation and communication
Role of public and private agencies and water users
Drainage related environment management involves activities concerning the transport, treatment, re-use or disposal of lower quality water. These activities within one farm, land unit or basin can affect the availability, quality and use of water in other farms, land units or basins. Water management at the farm level is necessary to appropriately affect the level of drainage water quality and return flows. However, regulations governing water use and discharge practices, agreements among groups of users, and joint action are also necessary to:
i. address issues and problems of meeting agreed water quality standards;
ii. ensure the flow of collective benefits of water management in a basin leading to improved water quality, or minimizing water quality degradation;
iii. decide on ways of sharing joint costs such as those associated with the treatment of poor quality drainage water; and
iv. deal with externalities, for example, the effect of low volume or low quality drainage water on downstream uses, including degradation of natural plant habitats and loss of wetlands.
Several types of stakeholders are usually involved in drainage water management. These include: policy-makers at the federal and local levels who set and enforce standards; irrigation, drainage and water management agencies who participate in monitoring and complying with standards; individual farmers and farmer groups who manage water on a day-to-day basis; other downstream groups affected by the quantity and quality of drainage water; and recreational and environmental interests. Poor quality agricultural drainage water imposes costs on stakeholders due to impacts on:
i. human health, as, for example, in the case of health effects in the lower reaches of the Aral Sea watershed;
ii. agricultural productivity, as in the case of increasing salinity in the lower Indus River in Pakistan, in the tail-end of the irrigation systems in Egypt, and the lower Murray River in Australia; and
iii. ecology and aquatic resources, as in many lakes and estuaries in North America and Europe.
Drainage water discharge standards are needed to reduce negative impacts on human health, agriculture, fisheries and ecosystems. to meet such standards, drainage water management and environmental strategies are also needed, usually in the form of land and water conservation and pollution control measures. the objectives and interests of various stakeholders have to be taken into account in the formulation of such strategies. where these objectives and interests vary, it is necessary to clearly identify trade-offs and to agree on a package of acceptable and affordable measures that will support the positive impacts and mitigate the negative impacts. any use of water for any purpose lowers the quality of the remaining water, hence compromise between upstream and downstream users is indispensable.
Several operational difficulties may arise either in monitoring or with regard to follow-up action. It is, therefore, important to provide forums for communication between stakeholders in the planning and implementation of drainage water management strategies. The purpose of such communication is to:
i. set objectives for water quality and drainage water management in the basin;
ii. participate in a joint planning process;
iii. cooperate in monitoring the performance level in achieving standards; and
iv. negotiate action plans, where necessary.
Incentives for such communication and mutually beneficial agreements among stakeholders have to be identified. These incentives could be: the sharing of potential additional costs of mitigation; increased ability to influence policies and regulations; and early and local resolution of conflicts without recourse to litigation or governmental intervention.
A wide range of public and private sector agencies are involved in drainage water management and they deal with issues of regulation, conservation and communication (NESPAK and Mott MacDonald, 1992). In developed countries, drainage water management is usually the responsibility of both the individual farmer and some type of collective organization, such as an irrigation or drainage district, water user group or a municipal-type authority. The collective organization may monitor the performance of on-farm drainage systems and ensure compliance with federal and local water quantity and quality regulations and standards. In much of the developing world, however, drainage development is at a low level and heavily dependent on government initiatives. Individual farmers are responsible for on-farm drainage, but enforcement of regulations is difficult due to a lack of formal water quality standards, the absence of organized user groups, or weak enforcement capacity on the part of governmental institutions. It is, therefore, important to redefine public (both central and local) and private sector roles in water management and to strengthen technical and management capacities for setting, monitoring and enforcing workable standards, and for promoting water conservation measures. Such standards and measures are usually formulated within a framework of overall water and environmental policy at various levels in a country or region. For example, in France, drainage improvement plans are expected to be in line with the regional water management master plan proposed by the country's 1992 Water Law (Zimmer et al., 1996).
Laws and regulations
Incentives for water quality enhancement
Federal, state and local laws and regulations on water quality and pollution control provide a framework for drainage water management in a basin. Regulations vary in scope, depending on the context of a specific locality, ecology, customs and traditions, country or state. Generally, they set appropriate standards for acceptable water quality levels. In Egypt, for example, water quality legislation and related regulations cover: protection of the Nile River and waterways from pollution; wastewater disposal from sewage systems; bathing and washing in streams; clearance of weeds and disposal of dead animals; industrial pollution; irrigation and drainage waters; and the licensing of groundwater wells. In some cases, regulations must also address the quantity of water used upstream, for example, in irrigation projects, to control downstream drainage flows. Regulations also specify measurement and compliance reporting requirements. Accordingly, those who manage drainage water have to implement programmes to ensure monitoring of water quantity and quality at the project or basin level and take corrective action when warranted. In setting standards, the functional purpose for which water is used must be kept in mind so that affordable and sustainable water quality practices are adopted.
A number of organizational arrangements can be used to address water quality problems. The choice of the most appropriate arrangement for a country depends on local conditions and the prevailing laws and practices in the country. In the Netherlands, the water boards, which had their origins in the management of dikes, canals, watercourses and polders, have increasingly taken an active role in water quality management. This implies close attention to water and sediment pollution. There are over 100 water boards. The water purification boards are more specialized. A few municipalities also carry out quality management functions, but expect to turn these functions over to the boards (Schultz and de Vries, 1993). The boards play an important role in the implementation of the national Pollution of Surface Waters Act. To effectively discharge their responsibilities, they enjoy powers relating to water issues that are similar to those of municipalities. Local interest groups are represented in their governing bodies. There is a tradition of stakeholder participation. Technical and administrative staff are recruited by the board depending on local needs. Decision making in the boards is open to public scrutiny. Activities related to public information and water related education are an important part of the boards' functions (Ministry of Transport and Public Works, 1991).
In the United States, federal, state, and sometimes, local governments set water quality standards. Generally, water districts may assume on behalf of the water users the responsibility for grass-roots implementation. For example, the California State Water Resources Control Board has determined that a 30% reduction in the volume of drainage water discharge in a particular region of the Central Valley of the state would significantly contribute to reducing the salt and Se load in drainage water flowing out of the farms in that region. Consequently, the water districts in the region have initiated an active programme of pricing and technology adoption to induce farm-level reductions in drainage discharge volumes (National Research Council, 1989; Dinar et al., 1994). Water districts are user based organizations with formal powers to frame operational rules, manage irrigation and drainage systems, and levy appropriate user fees. The districts' functions cover irrigation, drainage and resource conservation. They provide for the representation of a number of interests in their governing bodies. As in the case of the water boards, technical and administrative staff are hired to carry out operation and maintenance (O&M), drainage and other functions.
The costs of setting up and operating water organizations with stakeholder participation can be high. The key rule is to allow for the demand-based evolution of self-financed user organizations that have substantial water management functions. An enabling policy climate is necessary in which such organizations and federations of such organizations can emerge and negotiate directly with one another and with governmental organizations. In the developing world, water management and drainage is handled by a combination of public sector irrigation and drainage agencies, pollution control boards and other public sector monitoring and research organizations. Their functions and roles will need to be restructured and adjusted as they come to play a greater role in planning and regulation and turn local water management functions over to user organizations.
Participatory planning is an important process in solving some of the difficult problems (Le Moigne et al., 1994). Direct water users such as farmers, municipalities and hydropower companies are relatively easy to identify and include in the planning process. Specific provisions must be made to identify and invoke 'indirect' users, for example, fishermen interested in instream flows, recreational users and others that represent environmental interests. Groups of farmers at the tail-end of irrigation systems who may currently receive poor quality water are often left out of planning exercises. Special efforts to incorporate their needs are necessary. The absence of formal, registered water rights may often make it difficult to identify and include all stakeholders.
Opportunities for stakeholder participation are usually available through the environmental 'clearance' procedure. This procedure involves the preparation of environmental assessments. These assessments provide a basis for a relevant planning body to approve specific projects that represent all interests. Public hearings on plans and projects are frequently used to elicit public participation and promote the involvement of user groups, other stakeholders and interested neutral research institutions in the planning process. Public participation procedures in planning development projects are now formally prescribed in some countries.
Innovative approaches ('good practice' cases) that stress responsible and negotiated agreements between participants should be reviewed and adapted to local circumstances. The Murray Darling Basin Commission in Australia launched a Salinity and Drainage Strategy in 1988. This included an initial programme of salinity mitigation works to arrest Murray River salinity, and drainage works in the three participating states to protect agricultural land. Jointly funded by the three states, the objective was to reduce mean river salinity by 0.8 dS/m. Subsequently, each state was given a 'salinity credit'. This salinity credit permits them to undertake irrigation or drainage projects that could in turn increase river salinity according to the respective contribution of the states to the development works. The Commission oversees the implementation of the programme and maintains a register of all projects and their salinity effects. Its Salinity and Drainage Assessment Working Group has the operational responsibility for programme monitoring. A salinity effect and cost model has been developed using a representative period (1975-1985) and this model provides the basis for studying impacts of new projects proposed in the basin (Department of Water Resources, 1990; Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council, 1989).
Incentives for water quality protection and enhancement relate to:
i. Adoption of water conserving crops, technologies and agricultural management practices. To reduce irrigation and drainage flows, water conserving crops and irrigation and drainage technologies could be promoted through support for field-based research and development (R&D). Water that is not 'saved' cannot be diverted to other consumptive uses with complementary downstream water quality problems. To foster a more rational use of chemicals, integrated pest management practices could be supported. The adoption of 'best' technology and management practices by farmers requires a careful assessment of private costs and benefits, and an efficient extension system.
ii. Water pricing. It is generally preferable to control drainage flows through incentives for conserving irrigation water rather than through restrictions on drainage discharge. In this regard, it is important to consider a mix of pricing and irrigation water delivery strategies that meet the requirements of farmers and which at the same time lead to a reduction in water use and drainage volumes (Wichelns and Cone, 1992). Flat rates per hectare do not favour water conservation, whereas block rates and volumetric charges promote more efficient water use. However, there could be political difficulties in the implementation of water pricing policies, especially in cases where substantial public subsidies are currently used to finance services. Thus, a careful assessment of costs, and public information and education on costs of water services and the consequences of subsidies are important elements of rational pricing strategies. The progressive participation of water users in management functions is also a way to improve cost sharing. Mexico and Mali have recently shown that such user participation is possible and can be achieved within a reasonable time frame. An emerging area for study is the potential for using tradable pollution permits and the conditions necessary for their effective operation.
Water quality management information systems should be an integral part of drainage water management. These systems usually cover two aspects:
i. systematic collection and analysis of data based on a network of observation stations where samples are collected and analysed regularly; and
ii. investigations and research to address specific issues, including basin-wide modelling studies, that take an integrated view of economic, technical and institutional issues in water management.
The costs of monitoring and reporting must be built into project plans and budgets. In Egypt, for example, the Ministry of Public Works and Water Resources undertakes a detailed monitoring effort through the institutes affiliated with the National Water Research Centre. The River Nile Research Institute monitors water quality in the Nile River and its branches. The Groundwater Research Institute reviews groundwater potential and chemical pollution. The Drainage Research Institute (DRI) is responsible for monitoring drainage water quality in the Nile Delta. The DRI focuses on chemical composition, bacteriology, heavy metals, organic matters and nutrients. It collects periodic samples from open drains and pump stations in four regions of the country. Yearbooks on drainage water quality are published (DRI, 1995).
The functions of drainage organizations have expanded over time from building satisfactory drainage and flood control measures to include meeting established water quality standards and ensuring environmental protection. This transition from an agency exclusively involved in infrastructural development to one also engaged in water quality protection and negotiations with stakeholders is not an easy one. Communication between related governmental and nongovernmental organizations is necessary. For example, several organizations such as ministries of water, power, industry, agriculture, urban development, health, environment and education, in addition to the many private, community based and non-governmental organizations, are usually involved in drainage and environmental management issues. New skills, staff retraining, support for R&D and innovation in planning techniques are important.
Drainage and water quality management involves a host of new functions in most countries:
i. formulating an acceptable and affordable plan for sustainable drainage water management within the framework of the country/region's overall water resources and environmental policy and plans. Close coordination with resource management plans and environmental action plans is expected;
ii. mobilizing financial resources for preventive and mitigative actions, including R&D;
iii. ensuring public information and participation; and
iv. monitoring and reviewing environmental quality indicators.
These new functions place further burdens on already stretched budgets and an overextended water management bureaucracy. However, they are needed to address future challenges.
Water management agencies will need to divest themselves of some of their existing functions (e.g., management of lower levels of irrigation systems to water users in the developing countries) and begin to build partnerships with other resource institutions such as non-governmental organizations, commercial entities, R&D institutions and local governments and communities. The Comisión Nacional del Agua (CNA) in Mexico has been implementing a programme of redefining its functions since the mid-1980s. Previously, the CNA had been involved in all activities, from new source development to management of water down to the tertiary irrigation system level. However, over the past decade, it has transferred the function of management of distributaries and below to water user organizations. It has steered the formulation of a national water law and has initiated a major programme of registering tradable water rights (Gorriz et al., 1995). There has also been progress in other countries. In Egypt, rising soil salinity has led to the increasing installation of subsurface drains, together with the recovery of capital costs of field drainage systems from farmers. The cost recovery programme is backed by appropriate legislation. The Egyptian Public Authority for Drainage has been managing a systematic programme of drainage expansion and rehabilitation in the country. To meet future challenges, the ministry has initiated a programme of restructuring water management by improving services and promoting user participation in management of the lower levels of the irrigation system.
Existing staff skills need to be upgraded and new expertise introduced in irrigation and drainage organizations. The upgrading needs to start by identifying the training needs of existing engineering staff in the light of the new challenges facing environmental management. Centres and field sites for formal and non-formal training need to be located. Some prerequisites which have proven useful are:
i. careful identification of 'best practice' sites to host the event; and
ii. formulation of a seminar design that combines classroom training and field visits.
New capabilities may have to be obtained through recruitment. Where budgetary pressures make such recruitment difficult, part-time consultancy inputs and secondments from academic and private sector organizations may be viable options. Human resources need to be developed now in order to effectively address the drainage and environmental issues of the twenty-first century.
Institutions, laws and regulations will require restructuring to meet water quality and environmental needs as scientific and engineering changes are made in the way water supplies are managed.