Re-thinking Policies to Cope with Water Scarcity<br />A Policy Brief based on the Expert Group Meeting-WANA Forum:<br />“Water Scarcity and the supranational Policy Imperatives”<br />Chapter 3: <br />Innovations to Mainstreaming Water Scarcity in the Policy Agenda<br />Contributing Author: Dr. Tarek Merabtene<br />Last Updated: January 17, 2011<br />Figure 1. Projected water scarcity in 2025 (prepared by IWMI for the world water vision, Hague 2000). Source: IWMI, http://iwmi.orgIntroduction<br />Water scarcity in the West Asia-North Africa WANA region is an acknowledged reality by the governments in the region (Figure 1). Nevertheless, the effectiveness of exciting policies to cope with exciting water scarcity in the WANA region is by far below the anticipated goals to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. <br />Unlike catastrophic water hazards (such as severe flood) with instantly recognizable negative impacts, water scarcity is a malign disaster, if not properly diagnosed and treated from the first stage of the chaos it will propagate to damage all sectors of water resources management. <br />The challenges and threats imposed by the prospected new dimensions of water scarcity driven by future climate uncertainties and climate change, declining water sources availability, degradation of water quality and inadequate water management will require from all governments in the region to bring water scarcity management high in the political agenda. <br />Countries failing to do so will amplify their vulnerability to water scarcity, will weaken their resiliency to water disasters, and will lag behind to respond to the future water demands imposed by the paradigm shift of our cities and social dependency on water. This Chapter explore the Opportunities and Challenges to mainstreaming water scarcity in the policy agenda and ways to assess the effectiveness of adopted measures. <br />Mainstreaming water scarcity in the policy agenda: Challenges and opportunities <br />Absence of institutional body specialized in water scarcity issues<br />Water scarcity management requires integrated management approach involving all water partners (i.e., policy makers, water professionals, academia, public and private sectors). <br />The formulation of such an approach can only be achieved by bringing all the water partners under a unified policy think-tank. <br />The immediate challenge that must be addressed by WANA countries is the institutional fragmentation of responsibilities and uncoordinated actions directly or indirectly affecting policy progress in water scarcity management within the water development sectors. <br />The way forward can be achieved throw institutional bodies specialized in water scarcity management at both national and regional levels. <br />At country level the institutional body will have the responsibility to:<br />Categorize and define the dimensions of the water scarcity issues at country level. <br />Play leading role in indentify the specific country indicators that can be used to Mainstream Water Scarcity in the policy Agenda. <br />Reinforce the collection, exchange and availability of water scarcity related data and indicators (Government Supported).<br />Improve communication on water scarcity related measures and policies. <br />Enhance transparency and liability in the decision making processes undertaken by individual water sectors’ developers.<br />Development of scientifically sound scenarios on future development in cooperation with the academia and private sector.<br />At the WANA regional level the institutional body specialized in water scarcity will play a big role for:<br /> The development of recommendations and regulations for investors from the private sector and provides numerous possibilities for action. Therefore, it is fundamental to explore opportunities and value the judgments and actions of water development sectors into one framework from which managers can draw valuable lessons that could bring water scarcity management high in the political agenda. <br />Share data and information on adopted national policies, explore opportunities to transfer national know-how, expertise and best practices in policies for water scarcity management to other countries in the region. <br />Identify and develop regional water scarcity management indicators.<br />Identify regional gaps in expertise, human capacities, management and operational weaknesses and deficiencies. <br />Review and promote current strengths and capacities to adapt and evolve with the future challenges and implications of water scarcity.<br />Investigate the creation of flexible funding mechanisms to promote national and regional actions.<br />Ambiguous identification of conflicting users and poor involvement of stakeholders<br />Policy based on crisis management or “crisis driven” approach is a narrow vision of the dynamic challenges of water scarcity. The debate about the advantages and disadvantages of each policy option can help lead to the most widely acceptable choices. Therefore, governments must enable regulation that compel policy leaders and policy makers to involve all related entities from the public and private sectors in drafting new policies for water scarcity management.<br />Ambiguous categorization and poor valuation of the real dimensions of water scarcity tailored to the WANA region<br />Poor definition and ambiguous categorization of water scarcity in the mind of policy makers will hamper any tentative to re-think policies to cope and mitigate water scarcity at country level as well as cooperative actions at regional levels. <br />In other words, to mainstream water scarcity in the policy agenda, it is never enough to provide policy makers with a general figure on the state of water scarcity without detailed breakdown on the shortcoming of current policies. The Falkenmark Water Stress Index (Falkenmark 1989) is one of the earliest measures of water scarcity still used today. Based on this index a country is classified water scarce based on a threshold of 1000 m3 per capita per year developed based on a per capita minimum of 100 liters per day. It is worth noting that beside the valuable and informative outcome for which the water scarcity index was originally developed, the index has number of scientific and strategic shortcomings. Scientifically the index was not designed to reflect local realities or capture the new dimensions and challenges of water scarcity. Furthermore, the index figure does not provide information about the geographical, seasonal or social distribution of the water scarcity within the country and the region. <br />Strategically the outcome of the index may be used as descriptive of potential situation and general state of water scarcity but yet it cannot be used by policy makers to assess the effectiveness of adopted policies or to drive a decision making process and/or innovative measures to address the particularities of water scarcity at country and regional levels.<br />Way forward: Development of water scarcity policy effectiveness index <br />Although the water scarcity index (and its derivative versions developed to date) can provide adequate information regarding the general state of water stress and water scarcity, their role as policy tools is limited, particularly at country or regional level. Nevertheless, the large acceptance of the index (and its derivatives versions) among water professionals and policy makers, clearly support the valuable role that indicators development plays in mainstreaming policies. <br />The way forward is to clearly define and improve categorization of water scarcity issues. It is possible to achieve that through the development, under a common working framework, a policy index to assess the effectiveness of adopted policies in coping with water scarcity. The policy effectiveness index shall be based on clear national and regional targets backed by clear set of relevant indicators that can be adapted and tailored to the countries specifications with regards to current and prospected water scarcity issues in the region. <br />The process of developing the policy effectiveness index will play a useful role in identifying the form, category and trends of water scarcity indicators, and contributing to the process of priority setting, policy formulation and evaluation and monitoring of progress. It should be emphasized that indicators should ideally be developed as part of the overall policy and planning process, if they are to have policy relevance and practical application.<br /> <br />Declining of innovative options to increase water resources availability and options to improve water use<br />Failure to achieve progress in water governance under currently adopted policies will have tremendous impact on the political will to further engage in water scarcity management. <br />The time set by countries of the WANA region to meet the MDGs is coming to end, still very progress to cope with water scarcity issues have been achieved to date. <br />The WANA countries must engage in revolutionary cooperation to define innovative options on policies for water conservation, water use, water restoration, and grey-water and wastewater recycling. <br />The major handicap to achieve the goal is undoubtedly the lack of innovative options to tackle specific issues of water scarcity and water governance in general. <br />Way forward: Budget allocation for research and technology on water scarcity management options<br />The development and promotion of strategic plans for Private Public Partnership is enormously important to advocate private investment in water technology and research related to water scarcity management. <br />Linking applied technologies and policies: <br />Policy shortcomings and absence of legal policy that stimulates the employment of existing technologies that promote water use efficiency will delay the development of new innovative water efficiency technologies. <br />The engagement of private partnership with policy making will ensure that key policies (such as protection of intellectual property rights and enhancing regulations) are implemented. Falling to do that will create a vicious circle where the formulation of innovative policies would decline as a result of declining innovative and tangible options to move water scarcity management forward and vice versa. <br />Insignificant public awareness for sustainable water governance: <br />Governments are aware of the significant impact of raising public awareness in integrated water resources management. Nevertheless to foster sustainable social engagement on water scarcity issues there is a vital need to enforce water scarcity issues and water governance in general in the education curricula (i.e. from primary school to university in social study courses). <br />By doing so we ensure that future generation would be more proactive and perceptive of the threats of water scarcity. <br />Conclusion<br />Engagement in policies for sustainable water scarcity management is linked to the surrounding complex dynamic environment and unbalance between water availability and water use. Climate change, conflicting interest between water users, the paradigm shift in our cities’ scenery, demographic explosion, poverty, discrepancies in the social and economical valuation of the scarce water etc. add even more stress on policy makers to promote or engage in policy development. Legal, institutional, technical and scientific ambiguities surrounding the understanding and identification of the playing factors and determinants of water scarcity will hamper any tentative to mainstream water scarcity in the policy agenda. <br /><ul><li>References:
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WANA Forum 2010, A water-consultation, http://wanaforum.org , http://wanaforum.org/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=236%3Awater-consultation&catid=40&Itemid=60&lang=en , last visited December 05, 2010.
Falkenmark M. et al., “Macro-Scale Water Scarcity Requires Micro-Scale Approaches - Aspects of Vulnerability in Semi-Arid Development,” Natural Resources Forum 13, no. 4 (1989): 258-267.
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