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Transboundary River Basin Stakeholders: Local Government  

Local government is centered within the river basins; consequently, local government is closer to water resource "actions" and is in a good position to assess and effectively articulate national government policies. Local government is also best able to develop regulations that address issues in its jurisdiction, and be able to effectively monitor implementation and adherence.

However, challenges arise in situations where the river basin falls within more than one political administrative zone. In such cases, each local government structure may try to advance its own agenda to the detriment of others. Existing administrative divisions and regulatory conditions might discourage the management of water according to river basin boundaries. River Basin Organisations should be at the foundation of effective river basin planning, development and management. River basin agencies cannot in themselves ensure the sustainable development of the resource. They need support from a range of institutions that help determine the demands placed on the resource by economic, social and political change.

While devolution of responsibilities to local governments should help ensure that service delivery is more attuned to consumer priorities, and that providers are more accountable for their actions, several important issues are raised by devolution (GWP 2000):

  • "To achieve efficiency it is important to distance the provider from short-term political interference
  • The finances of the provider need to be clearly differentiated from the general accounts of the local government unit
  • To minimise the danger of poor-governance, performance monitoring, benchmarking and some aspects of regulation may be more appropriately entrusted to a higher tier of government or some independent agency
  • Institutions are needed to ensure that local providers cannot ignore the effects of their actions on downstream water users or other stakeholders in the river basin or catchment
  • Provision of co-ordination mechanisms may be necessary if the boundaries of local governments fail to cover all customers or if more than one local authority exists in an area
  • Small municipalities may need to consolidate their water service facilities or activities in order to fully realise economies of scale and scope
  • It is important that local government recognises that land use planning, economic development and social policies can all have a profound effect on water demand and the production of waterborne waste"

Local Governance Structures Within the Basin

In Botswana, the Ministry of Local Government and Lands (MLGL) has responsibility for water supply to the rural villages through the District Councils (ORASECOM 2007c). In practice, this occurs with significant support from the Department of Water Affairs (DWA). The MLGL is also responsible for land use planning, environmental investigations and the preparation of the National Conservation Strategy. The Water Utility Corporation (WUC), a parastatal under the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Water Affairs (MMRWA), is responsible for water supply to the urban centres. Town and city councils are responsible for the all aspects of effluent disposal works (SADC 2003a).

In Mozambique, the National Water Policy aims to decentralise water resources management to autonomous entities at the basin and provincial levels. The local level institutions responsible for water management are the five Regional Water Administrations (Administraçãoes Regionais de Águas) - Below the Regional Water Administrations are Basin Management Agencies, which are intended to encourage stakeholder involvement through Basin Committees.

In South Africa, there is an on-going devolution of responsibilities from national to local government and community-based organisations in the context of the National Water Act and the National Water Resource Strategy, (ORASECOM 2007c). Water Management Areas have been established, defined largely by hydrological catchment borders, and Catchment Management Agencies (CMA) are designated the main administrative bodies, although progress has been limited. Water User Associations and Water Service Authorities are in the process of being established at the local level.

Zimbabwe has also undergone a shift from centralised to de-centralised water management through the creation of Catchment Councils. Catchment Councils are to develop water outline plans, issue permits, regulate water use and perform other water-related activities as required by the central government (Mapedza & Geheb 2010). The Catchment Councils delegate some activities to the Sub-Catchment Councils, although these activities do not include allocating water permits. Water User Boards are below Sub-Catchment Councils and designed to be the most responsive to local water users, although they are not legal entities.

Boshielo Dam, South Africa.
Source: Ashton 2010
( click to enlarge )

 



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