One of the core roles of any government is to formulate policies, through which it can delimit the activities of all sanitation and water management stakeholder groups, including itself. Appropriate policies can encourage participatory, demand-driven and sustainable development. Policies lead to the development of laws and rules and regulation designed to achieve policy goals. Good law for sustainable sanitation and water management recognises and acknowledges existing uses and rights, including international norms. At the same time, it is flexible enough to permit reform in response to technological change and socio-economic need. The role of laws for sanitation and water management is to implement and enforce policy, and provide effective administrative and regulatory mechanisms at appropriate levels. Legislation may be reformed to include the core elements of sanitation and water management and to support the policy objectives of a national, regional or local government. (Peters 2012a)
Water-related laws should include provisions and operational mechanisms that promote integrated water management by regulating multiple uses and aimed also at the conservation and protection of the resource. Other key legal elements may cover economic, environmental, ecosystem, social and cultural aspects, and establish norms and standards for the optimal regulation and sustainable management of water resources. To achieve some of these objectives, legal frameworks should address the following areas:
- Water rights and allocation: A water right is the right to use water, not to own it. Who is entitled to use what water, when, where and how – these challenging issues of lawful entitlement to use water resources are covered in legal frameworks under provisions dealing with water rights and allocation.
- Water quality: The legal framework for water quality relates to the biological and chemical composition and physical condition of raw water quality.
- Water services: Water services in this context refer to the supply of water for domestic or industrial needs and for sanitation.
- Land-use: The impact of land use on water resources is related to flooding drainage and flooding in both urban and rural areas, especially on the availability and quality of water.
- Protecting freshwater ecosystem resources: Water-related natural resources can be considered as functioning units on an ecosystem basis. All human activities have environmental repercussions that impact freshwater ecosystems.