Земельные и водные ресурсы

Technical Session 4: Policies & Regulations - Creating the Enabling Environment

Session Summary

The session provided an overview of the importance of developing an enabling environment through policies and regulations. It provided concrete examples, barriers and way forward from the viewpoints of governments, private sector and end-users. The key points are:

Policy uptake— Policies and regulations have a powerful role in boosting the implementation of technologies on the use of non-conventional waters both through public projects and by enabling the private sector.

Addressing end users—Low social acceptance by end-users of reclaimed water is a barrier to overcome. Governments should maintain a communication channel with end-users to address their needs and provide support in strengthening their capacity in understanding and implementing the policies.

Building trust and accountability— Joint responsibility on water management projects should be enhanced by promoting a strong communication and participation of all parties including governments, private sectors, civil society, academia, international institutions, research,  among others. This will allow full accountability of the complex governance of non-conventional waters and define roles and responsibilities of parties.

Key take home points from each speaker:

Ms Edeltraud Guenther discussed the important role of management systems in creating an enabling environment for the use of non-conventional waters. She identified and communicated the cost of action against the cost of inaction on non-conventional waters. As an example, the effects on people’s health should be taken into account. Politics have very often a short-term policy cycle, making it difficult to make long term planning, which is necessary for water management and development. A holistic consideration of the long-term cost of water projects is crucial to build an enabling environment.

Mr Sandy Rodger highlighted the importance of leveraging the potential of businesses through regulations that promote circular economy solutions. He gave the example of the Toilet Board Coalition, which is enabling private sector engagement; connecting large and small companies; and ensuring close collaboration between private, public and non-profit sectors working towards improving access to sanitation. In the field of sanitation, he highlighted the importance of decentralizing infrastructures and services, which should be managed by small local businesses that leads to local business growth and more cheaper sanitation services. He also highlighted the importance of digitalization in bringing universal access to information related to water and sanitation projects, resulting in increased transparency and accountability of the sector.

Mr Miquel Salgot highlighted the importance of taking into account the end users viewpoint in reclaimed water interventions.  In fact, there is often distrust and lack of acceptance on the use of reclaimed water by farmers. The rules and regulations on such resources are often not set. Even where these are present, farmers are not necessarily aware or do not have the capacity to interpret and implement such regulations. Therefore, from one side, the importance is in designing policies and regulations that clearly account for the costs and benefits as well as roles and responsibilities. On the other hand, it is crucial to integrate the viewpoint of the end-user and capacitate them to support the implementation of the policies

Ms Concepción Marcuello Olona presented Spain’s experience in the use of non-conventional waters and the government’s plan in implementing related projects. Spain has a long lasting experience with water reuse and has technologies and actors in place. The challenge lies in water governance and management of roles and responsibilities of each actor (such as cost sharing and monitoring). There is need to enhance institutional capacities to prepare them to address the complex issue of the use of non-conventional waters, both on governance as well as social acceptance. One of the key solutions to the water challenge would be to reduce the use. However, water is considered a public good and challenges remain in making the different users accountable for water and lower overuse of resources.

Mr Tom Soo highlighted the need of political and policy uptake to enhance the use of nonconventional waters; and  innovation, engineering and science as an enabler of good policy. The latter needs needs to reflect and anticipate the change in the water resources mix of the various sectors (mixed policy). There is a general rise in demand for water resources and the business as usual does no longer stand. The use of non-conventional waters should be increased but most governments are not making the “hard decisions” on this topic. Policy barriers stem from politically difficult decisions such as: (1) financing (ensuring good rate of returns for investors); (2) health considerations; (3) public perception (is it worth the political risks for governments?); (4) coherence with other policies; (5) lack of institutional and legal frameworks and implementation. He concluded that innovation technologies go hand in hand with good policies finding solutions to the points above. Policy and science should inform each other and the new paradigm should lie in finding engineering solutions in harmony with the environment.

Ms Jaouher Touria presented Morocco’s policy and use of non-conventional waters. Morocco is impacted by the irregularity of water availability in space and time, due to high inter-annual variability of rainfall and territorial disparity of surface water distribution. The gap between water offer and demand is higher with climate change scenarios and the government is currently investing in 43 water reuse projects with an overall water reuse rate of 10 percent in the country. Main constraints are: (1) technical (quality of water); (2) regulatory; (3) institutional (many stakeholders and insufficient coordination); (4) financial (high cost of technology). In order to tackle these barriers, Morocco is revising the regulations and reinforcing the financial and governance support around water reuse projects.

Mr Eric Stevens provided a brief update from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the implementation of agricultural water compliance dates as part of their Produce Safety Rule. FDA encourages farms to continue to use good agricultural practices to maintain and protect the quality of water sources. He highlighted past, current, and future water-related environmental sampling projects undertaken by FDA to better understand both the genetic variation of pathogens by geographic areas (using Whole-Genome Sequencing) and the different environmental sources that could lead to water and food contamination. One example of sampling pathogens from Virginia water sources identified that not only are environmental waters and sediments potential reservoirs for clinically-relevant Salmonella isolates within the area, but that agricultural practices related to the use of contaminated surface waters are highly likely to introduce Salmonella onto crop plants. In closing, he stressed the importance of making a commitment to sharing such relevant data to public databases to better improve global public and environmental health.