Yesterday, the Ecuadorian government issued a decree for the "Reorganization of the National Council of Water Resources through the creation of the National Water Secretariat.”
The decree, signed by President Rafael Correa, provides a legal framework for moving towards integrated water resource management in the country, through water management that performs its duties from the national level to the water basin, watershed and catchment levels; and with a vision in mind of the sustainability, ecosystem and society.
In July 2007, IUCN participated in the development of this decree by organizing a national workshop together with the Andean Community (CAN) and stakeholders of the whole country with the objective of developing a roadmap towards a national Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) plan. In particular in the months after this workshop IUCN participated in different meetings for the elaboration of this decree.
Water, which has historically been neglected in the country, is identified by the current government as a strategic resource. The new decree provides fundamental elements to enable the integrated management of the resource; an example of this is that its management will be decentralized, through river basin management committees. The decree includes many modern principles of water management by putting emphasis on an ecosystem vision and the human right to water; it even includes the recognition of the nature’s need to be included in water allocation decisions. It also includes a mechanism to decentralize water management by the creation river basin committees. This decree is the first of its kind and it is clearly a support to an IWRM and ecosystem approach which is a radical change here in Ecuador.
As well, it complements existing policies consistent with natural resource management, environmental protection, people’s right to access water, and oversight of economic and social activities that exploit these resources. Emphasis is also placed on the criteria for preservation, conservation, sustainable and efficient water use. Additionally, it supports the promotion of conservation of native forests and páramo ecosystems, which are key ecosystems for water regulation in the Andean watersheds. The páramos consist of mostly glacier formed valleys and plains with a large variety of lakes, peat bogs and grass wetlands provide environmental services including water resources to more than 100 million people.
During the first 60 days, the new National Water Secretary, who will have the rank of minister, must develop special instructions that regulate the adoption of the functional structure and of the creation of the river basin management committees.