Governance functions and levels

Water governance and water sector reform

A reform refers to changes to the better. It is defined as a process “bringing the new and improved form or status”. In this way, the water sector reform refers to various processes that take place in the water sector to make positive shifts in response to changing circumstances. This may include improvements in policies, legislation, institutional structures, organizations and relations between all stakeholders. Initiatives for more efficient water governance are synonymous with the water sector reforms.

Governance functions

Water governance addresses the following groups of issues:

  • Ownership rights;
  • Development of regulations and their amendment;
  • Decision making and monitoring;
  • Conflict prevention and settlement;
  • Financial and labor resources.

Governance levels

Eventually, IWRM concerns changes in the nature of water governance, which “relates to the range of political, social, economic and administrative systems that are in place to develop and manage water resources and the delivery of water services at different levels of society” (GWP, January 2002).

Water governance policies mirror in purely sociological factors (institutions, institutes, etc.) that are beyond the water supply functions and reflect broader sociological structure of the country, i.e. the environment around a water institution.

Functionally, governance can be divided into internal and external one.

  • Internal governance (sectoral level) includes allocation of finances, limits, institutional setup, staff, instructions, …
  • External governance (constitutional level) is based on international rules and agreements, laws, ownership rights, market relations, water charges, water rights and water right market, investments,…

Both internal and external governance concerns a water service provider and a water manager. External governance may imply that this water service provider as an object of policy impact never does occur in fact and is not considered even as an actor in provision of access to water.

Existing service providers can succeed or fail depending on external governance. To a certain extent, favorable or, at least, neutral environment is critical for water service providers and their successful activity. Additionally, the service provider must meet certain conditions inside his own framework.

Water governance should be:

  • Open and Transparent: Water institutions should work in an open and transparent manner.
  • Inclusive and communicative: wide participation should be ensured to increase trust in final result and to policy developing institutions.
  • Coherent and integrative.
  • Equitable and ethical: All men and women should have possibilities to improve or keep their welfare. Equity between and among various water interest groups, stakeholders and consumers should be carefully monitored throughout the policy development and implementation process.
  • Accountable: the rules of the game, as well as legislative roles and executive processes, must be clear; each water-related institution must explain and take responsibility for its actions.
  • Efficient: concepts of political, social, and environmental efficiency related to water resources must be balanced against simple economic efficiency.
  • Responsive and sustainable: water demands, evaluation of future water impacts and past experiences should be the basis for water policy.

Forms (types, styles) of governance

The two main styles of governance are notable. Those are authoritarian and democratic styles or top-down and bottom-up control and decision-making. In modern language, we can compare those two alternative styles with state administration and self-governance. The difference between those styles is not always clear and many (perhaps, most) irrigation systems are subjected to a combination of these styles. Thus, in terms of composition of actors of the process, one may determine the following forms of governance:

  • State,
  • Joint,
  • Community-based.

Joint governance ensures maximal cooperation and minimizes direct (based on orders) governance.

Governing in cooperation with people is the ideal management in a democratic society with the high level of knowledge and education. Here, cooperation, first of all, refers to negotiation of goals and decision making.

Cooperation-based governance is limited when:

  • There is not time for negotiation of goals and participatory decision making.
  • The group does not have appropriate knowledge and capacities for negotiation of goals or joint decision making and time is not enough to reach the desired level.
  • Freedom of actions in negotiation of goals and decision making is limited due to a specific task.

Governance entities

  • State administration:
    • External governance: President, Parliament, Government.
    • Internal governance: water agencies (Ministry of Utilities, State Committee for Ecology and Energy, Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources, …,) and their bodies.
  • Joint governance (Water council, Water commission).
  • Community-based governance (WUA Council).

In our context, the state administration agencies include: the Osh Basin Water Authority for Aravan-Akbura Canal management and for the Right-bank Main Canal management; the Fergana Valley Main Canal System Authority for South-Fergana Main Canal management; and, the Tajik Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources for Khoja-Bakirgan Canal management.

Along with state administration agencies, representatives of water users (unions of canal water user), i.e. the general public, participate in joint governance via the Canal Water Committees.

The main difference between the governance body and the management body is that the former: 1) is comprised of elected representatives, 2) makes decisions through voting, 3) may not be a legal entity.

The governance body and the management body may be or may not be a part of the same institution. The example of this the same institution is WUA (WUA Council and WUA Administration).

In developed countries with the long democratic traditions the governance bodies are separate from the management bodies in WUA. Whereas in developing countries, such separation is also needed, but usually is not effective for some reasons: the governance body (WUA Council) is either inactive or passive.

Author: Mirzaev N.N., SIC ICWC

Selected bibliography