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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture
The main institutions involved in water resources management are:
- The Ministry of Food and Agriculture with: (i) the Department of Melioration and Water Resources, responsible for planning, monitoring, and promoting irrigated agriculture. This department defines the water requirements for irrigation and supervises the management of the irrigation schemes; (ii) the Hydraulic Design Institute (Saktskalproject), responsible for irrigation, drainage, flood control, land reclamation, hydroelectric and water supply schemes design; (iii) the Georgian Scientific Research Institute of Water Management and Engineering Ecology, responsible for research into all issues related to water.
- The Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources with the Centre for Monitoring and Prognostication, responsible for the assessment of surface water quantity, including the Black Sea, as well as groundwater. The Centre unites several departments for monitoring quantity and quality of surface water and groundwater, namely: (i) the Department of Hydrometeorology, responsible for surface water quantity observations (except of the rivers of the Ajara Autonomous Republic and the Black Sea); (ii) the Department of Monitoring of Environmental Pollution, responsible for surface water quality (except of the rivers of the Ajara Autonomous Republic and the Black Sea); (iii) the Black Sea Branch (located in Batumi), responsible for surface water quantity and quality monitoring of the Black Sea and rivers from the Ajara Autonomous Republic.
During the Soviet period, many administrative units were involved in the management of the same irrigation scheme. With the institutional changes, every scheme is directly managed by one of the 48 administrative units of the Department of Melioration and Water Resources.
Developing an Integrated Water Resources Management Plan for Georgia is a complicated task at this moment, because first new water legislation, based on a basin approach, must be enacted.
Policies and legislation
The policy document “Concept of agrarian policy in Georgia” was adopted by presidential decree in 1997; it covers the following issues relating to irrigation:
- the main irrigation infrastructure will remain in the hands of the State, while the inter-farm distribution will be included in the privatization programme;
- there should be an increase in state investment in irrigation, soil protection, research, selection, breeding information and plant protection services, development of environmental protection for rural infrastructure.
While there is no separate policy document that directly spells out Georgian policy for protecting and managing water availability and quality, the Law on Water does outline a number of key principles that comprise a policy framework (UNECE, 2003). Some of these are:
- water protection is a major element of environmental protection for Georgian citizens, in view of both current and future needs;
- drinking water for the population is the highest priority of all uses;
- both groundwater and surface water are under state control;
- management of water varies according to hydrologic importance;
- a system of “user-polluter pays” is key;
- pollution is not allowed, although a definition of what constitutes pollution is lacking.
There are more than 10 major laws in Georgia that have significant influence on the protection and management of water resources and associated environmental concerns. The most comprehensive is the above Law on Water, which has been in force since October 1997 and was last amended in June 2000. The 96 separate articles of this Law cover a very wide and comprehensive set of issues, such as pollution control policies, protection of drinking water sources, licensing of water use and discharge, categorization and protection of resources, particular measures for the Black Sea, flood control, and many others. All surface water, groundwater and near-coastal water is deemed to be under the control of the national government. Many of the provisions of the Law are supplemented by legislative orders and decrees, as well as by regulations of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources, which specify necessary actions in greater detail. The Ministry holds overarching responsibility for implementing the Law on Water, although other ministries are key players on specific topics. The Law is implemented by personnel at the regional or municipal level. The Law on Water does provide for the licensing of water use and the discharge of pollutants, an approach that has been in place since 1999.
The government has prepared the national programme of harmonization of Georgian legislation (including water legislation) to EU legislation (Tsiklauri, 2004).