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C6 REGULATORY INSTRUMENTS Allocation and water use limits

There are four basic types of regulatory instrument which have a role to play in integrated water resources management.

  • Direct Regulations, whereby government bodies or independent regulatory agencies establish laws, rules or standards which water and land users and water service providers are required to follow. This is often known as command and control regulation. Such regulations might, for example, include the specification of drinking water quality standards, controls over land use and development within catchments and flood plains, controls over the quantity and timing of private water abstractions, and controls over the quantity, quality and timing of waste discharges into the water environment.
  • Economic or market regulation (C7) economic instruments such as unit pricing, marketable rights or subsidies are employed instead of or in conjunction with direct regulations to influence water or land using behaviour.
  • Self regulation professional bodies, industry groups or community groups establish their own rules of conduct and mechanisms to ensure compliance. Governments may still have an important role, however, in allowing self-regulating systems to operate, in encouraging, enabling and building regulatory capacity and in providing vital information.
  • Social regulation (C4) this involves changing water use behaviour through persuasion, information and education.

It is now widely accepted that all four of these sets of instruments will need to be employed within a mixed regulatory system. Each have their advantages and disadvantages and each require different expertise and different timescales for implementation. The package of appropriate regulatory tools is likely to vary markedly depending on the socio-economic, political and environmental conditions prevailing in a country.

Direct regulation (B2.3 and B1.5) can only be effective if the agency involved has enforcement capacity and the regulations are regarded by the regulated and the general public as necessary and appropriate. Over-stringent regulations which impose high costs on the regulated can lead to non-compliance or evasion, so undermining the whole regulatory endeavour.

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