Six Regional Water Agencies Improving Quality, Sustainability
Even though France is considered a water-rich country, high-quality water resources are unevenly distributed from region to region. Managing this uneven water distribution requires smart management, which is no different than the rest of the world.
But to solve this problem, in 1964 France was divided into seven water regions, with each region having its own agency responsible for water oversight. These seven water agencies have an area of jurisdiction that corresponds to the nearby water resources, the seven catchment basins, including natural watersheds. This aspect clearly makes these agencies unique, since they are not based on regular administrative boundaries.
The advantage of a regional scale water agency, versus a system based on city-scale or state-scale governance of water management plans, is that it implements the management of water resources in their natural environment, the hydrographical basins or macroscopic watersheds. These agencies are a division of the French Department of Ecology, Sustainability, Transportation and Housing and are charged with developing effective management schemes, reducing pollution and creating healthier local environments.
Within each agency, a water basin committee collaborates with neighboring communities and even other countries to help manage the area’s aquifers, oversee resource allocation and create long-term water management plans. The committees represent and protect a diversity of interests. 40 percent of their membership is comprised of locally elected representatives, 40 percent are local water users, and 20 percent are federal government representatives.
The agencies’ mission and structure have made them effective advocates for responsible water planning and conservation. Since the agencies’ creation, they’ve been given incrementally expanded responsibilities and are now tasked with ensuring that two-thirds of the country’s water resources receive “good” quality ratings by 2015.