Changing water policies

Achieving any of the following goals will require changes in water policies and institutions:

  • Advancing water security
  • Advancing water quality
  • Reducing poverty
  • Reducing environmental degradation
  • Ensuring that water is a key part of national development amid growing competition for water
  • Addressing development challenges concerning water such as climate change

Change is a political process and therefore a negotiated one. It is informed by a host of factors-history, public perception, development challenges, and social and economic context. There are no universally applicable solutions. Nevertheless, analysis from experiences of change does reveal common elements among the successes and among the failures. Change rarely happens in a linear, predictable fashion. That said, it can be useful to think of the process in terms of stages - with the understanding that some stages happen simultaneously, some may be skipped, and some may need to be repeated. Also, changes can have a domino effect - with changes from one stage serving as triggers for change in subsequent stages. Analysis of successful change processes suggests the following basic stages:

Stage 1: Laying the groundwork for change - gathering evidence and developing a shared diagnosis about problems and possible solutions.
Stage 2: Capitalizing on a conducive environment for change (e.g., a favourable political situation or a crisis that alerts people to the need for change).
Stage 3: Creating a growing demand for change (converging public opinion that change is needed).
Stage 4: Negotiating the actual change package - formulating new policy, agreeing on reforms (builds on Stage 1).
Stage 5: Ensuring implementation and impact - follow-up and monitoring.

In addition,‘reform’ in the sense of changing institutional mandates, policies and legislation is not always what is needed. In some cases, the focus needs to be on implementation of policies or strategies already agreed upon and removing obstacles that prevent organizations from realizing their mandate, legislation from being enacted, or policies from being put into practice. In some case the issue may be promoting a larger understanding of the benefits of change, including the positive impacts people can see in their daily lives.

(Carriger 2009)