Enhancing environmental governance: The case of water

 

Governments of the water-scarce MENA region are well aware of the urgent need for new water policies in order to fulfil administrative, information, policy, capacity and funding gaps, and ensure sustainable use of this scarce resource. Some countries, such as Morocco and Tunisia, started to reorganise their water sector almost two decades ago, while others are still at the very beginning of the process. Chapter 10 gives an overview of the main challenges linked to water governance in the MENA region. Four case studies are discussed: Egypt, Morocco, the Palestinian National Authority and Tunisia.


Egypt has made considerable progress in providing pure drinking water, which now reaches all citizens in both urban and rural areas. A decision was made in 2004 to rationalise the organisation of the public water sector and centralise all water activities. A presidential decree groups all drinking water and sanitation entities under one holding company. Furthermore, a PPP Central Unit was established within the Ministry of Finance, as well as satellite units in line ministries. Potential PPP projects were identified as part of line ministries’ five-year strategic plans, and budgetary and accounting practices were finalised to support PPP transactions, the first of which (for wastewater treatment in New Cairo) was awarded this year.

 

In Morocco, the reform of the water sector has led to significant changes since the introduction of the Water Code in 1995. Nine River Basin Organisations (and 6 delegations) have been created as nodal agencies for water administration at the regional level. These River Basin Organisations are legally and financially independent. They are financed through users’ fees and can lend money for different local investment programmes in water. The code also created the High Council for Water and Climate, an interministerial committee to reinforce horizontal and vertical co-ordination among the different actors in the water sector. Gathering different representatives from the public sector, as well as non-government stakeholders, this council is in charge of assessing the national strategy on climate change and its impact on water resources; the national hydrological plan; and integrated water resources planning.

 

The Palestinian National Authority established the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) following the signing of the Oslo Agreement in 1995. The PWA prepared the National Water Plan of 2000, which sets the direction until 2020 and proposes specific actions to achieve its goals. It describes the role of service providers and shifts the functions of the PWA to regional utilities for operations, maintenance, repairs, wastewater collection and treatment, bulk water supply, water reuse, and allocation for industrial and agriculture use.


Tunisia has made water management one of its top priorities. A decade (1990-2000) of concentrated effort to implement a national strategy to mobilise the water resource and improve networks has led to the creation of 21 barrages, 203 hillside barrages, and 580 small catchment ponds, mobilising 85% of the country’s water resources potential. Since the beginning of the 21st century Tunisia has moved towards integrated water resources management, which is a more comprehensive approach.