How do national policies influence water use at the local level?
Key Question Categor(ies):Power and Politics
This case study indicates that national policies, such as government subsidies for certain crops, can significantly influence water use at the local level. By altering subsidies to encourage farmers to grow more water-efficient crops, national policy could potentially support more sustainable water use. However, it is important to keep in mind that changing government agricultural subsidies will have many other social and economic effects that must be considered.
In the case of the Northeast ocean planning process, the National Ocean Policy was certainly a driving factor in helping to catalyze improved regional coordination that built off of existing state level initiatives. When the National Ocean Policy was created, the Northeast already had two state-level ocean plans and a regional ocean council working to improve coordination on ocean management.
The national level policy helped bring federal agencies to the table with a clear mandate from the Executive branch to focus on supporting regional ocean planning. In addition, it helped bring tribal governments to the table as an important resource in planning, technical ecological knowledge, and cultural resources. Having increased leadership and collaboration from both federal and tribal representatives, overall improved the ocean management work in the Northeast.
Perhaps most importantly with this national initiative, it encouraged regions to help drive the process and tailor their needs from the bottom-up. It did not create additional regulatory requirements, but instead encouraged existing entities to improve their work through increased coordination and stakeholder input towards a collective future vision of ocean management.
National policies have been influential to local users, yet not in a positive way. This can be seen in that only 47% of households were connected to the public water network in 2007 (UNESCWA), illegal connections to the water network (El-Fadel) or that there is a general disregard to the environmental policies by the public (Daily Star). Decades of conflict and unrest eroded the capacity for many federal and local government agencies – water included. Masri (1997) also notes that soil, wildlife, forestry, along with water and other natural resources has a long history of neglect and mismanagement. The lack of capacity has since translated to a crumbling infrastructure (El-Fadel) and a disillusioned population that has little to no expectation from their government. ‘Non-sustainable development and a lack of awareness’ (ARD Report) also highlight a lack of oversight of water resources from the government. This has been exasperated by the structure for water management agencies, but truly is represented in the lack of accountability of those responsible for water governance.