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B1.5 Regulatory bodies and enforcement agencies


Regulatory and enforcement bodies have an extremely important role in establishing and ensuring the effective application of tools for building IWRM. Their functions include the allocation of water rights, environmental management related to water use, water quality, land use planning and the financial management of water resources management by the state. Regulatory bodies also have a function in setting prices and performance standards for service providers (economic regulation). The actual function of regulatory and enforcement bodies should be set out in a clear legal framework reflecting water policies. In some cases the same body undertakes regulation and enforcement; in other cases they are separate. Regulatory and enforcement agencies normally have a range of tools for enforcement fines, taxes, penalties, withdrawal of permits and licences etc.

Regulatory bodies and enforcement agencies may be financed through central government funds, or by user fees (e.g. pollution charges) or fines for non-compliance. If the latter applies, the terms need to be very clear or there is a potential risk of conflict of interest.

The specific functions of regulatory bodies and enforcement agencies are determined by government policy on water resources management (A1). These bodies and agencies are usually in the government sector but may subcontract specific activities (e.g. monitoring and testing samples) to non-governmental organisations, including private companies. It is important that they can act without day-to-day political interference.

Effective capacity in regulation and enforcement (C6) is essential and this applies whether traditional regulatory instruments or innovative pricing and economic instruments are used (C7). However, capacity in regulatory and enforcement bodies varies widely from region to region and a focus on capacity building and support is essential. The legitimacy of the regulatory body is critical in ensuring compliance.

Lessons learned

Important priorities for enforcement and regulatory agencies include:

  • Sufficient staff of adequate capability to enforce regulations (enforcement agencies) and make appropriate assessments about water management needs (regulatory bodies);
  • Statutes which are practical, enforceable and are based on accurate knowledge of resource management and environmental impacts (see also A2.2);
  • Staff who are knowledgeable about good management practices and have appropriate scientific knowledge in water resources management;
  • A sense of ownership on the part of stakeholders so that they accept the monitoring, enforcement and regulation procedures; ownership can by built through use of awareness raising techniques (C4.2 and C4.3) and participatory management (B2.1);
  • Adequate financial resources to support the staff and operations, and transparency in financial management, to minimise regulatory capture;
  • Selecting meaningful indicators for technical, economic and social issues and appropriate benchmarks (see C1.5);
  • A programme of legal education and awareness building for the regulating parties and public at large goes a long way towards putting legal instruments into practice and ensuring that the use of regulatory instruments is not limited to specialists.

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