Policy Choices and Challenges
2 Understanding the Causes of the Water Problems
What problems do the reforms seek to address?
When embarking on a reform process and choosing new management tools, it is necessary for governments to be clear about what problems are to be resolved. Within the water sector it has been common to define these problems in physical or financial terms, eg:-
Treating the causes not the symptoms
It is important for the policy maker to recognise that a perceived water problem may often be a physical manifestation or symptom of underlying deficiencies in the way that water management systems are operating. To uncover these deficiencies and the underlying problem causes a questioning approach will need to be taken. An example of the type of questions which may need to be asked is given in the box below, which looks at the lack of financial resources to invest in additional water infrastructure. Once such questions are answered the policy maker is in a much better position to judge which management tools can treat the disease rather than the symptoms.
Lack of Financial Resources to Invest in Additional Water Infrastructure
Is the need for new investment increased:
Has the service provider:
For instance if poor management of existing water supply assets is one underlying cause, then appropriate tools might include performance audits and benchmarking, performance bonus incentives, distributional zonal metering, staff retraining or issuing managing contracts for the operation and maintenance of the service to bodies with more technical and managerial expertise.
Understanding the causes is not a simple task, for multiple causation is commonplace. If we take the problem of increased threats from flooding it is likely that at least 9 different key underlying causes could be established:-
While multiple causes increase complexity, they also provide opportunities to start the reform process by tackling first those causes more amenable to change