Caring for Water: A Shared Responsibility

Country: El Salvador

Improving water governance is one of the principal challenges that Blue Harvest faces in the municipalities of San Ramon and El Tuma La Dalia.  A key aspect to improving governance in water resource management involves overcoming many institutional obstacles, and in some cases, individuals who block progress for the best use of water.

Some efforts have been made in previous years, in accordance with this objective. In 2006, the Municipal Council approved Municipal Ordinance 01-06, which regulates, conserves and protects Natural Resources in the Municipality.

In 2009 a Water Platform was established involving the representatives of institutions and the municipal government, but it did not work. More effort was needed in reaching consensus, unifying the different stakeholders, and reaching a common understanding of the environmental issue.

In recent years, in the municipality of Tuma La Dalia, in the context of the Municipal Environmental Commission (CAM Spanish acronym) and the Municipal Food Security Commission (COMUSSAN Spanish acronym) have addressed the matter of water in an isolated fashion.  Additionally, it was identified that a low level of coordination existed among municipal officials and state institutions, because generally there has been little participation by the representatives of the institutions of the state in the municipality. This situation is exacerbated by the high staff turnover in governmental institutions.

In the municipality, out of 90 existing Water and Sanitation Committees (CAPS Spanish acronym), only 40 of them have legal standing. The Water and Sanitation Unit (UMA Spanish acronym) in conjunction with the Municipal Network of Water Committees (CAPS Network) meet with the CAPS every two months. However, there are serious weaknesses in these structures. There is a general lack of accountability.

In June 2014, under the leadership of the Water and Sanitation Unit, and participation of representatives from other local institutions such as the CAPS Network, ADDAC with its Blue Harvest Project, NITLAPAN and Christian Medical Action, who are all aware of the water resources issues in the municipality, the first steps were taken to form an arena to address municipal priorities relating to water resources from an inclusive approach. This gave rise to the local platform known as the Water Roundtable.

In October 2014, Blue Harvest lead by ADDAC worked with the Water Roundtable to complete the first water governance evaluation at the municipal level, with participation of the aforementioned stakeholders. This demonstrated the relevance of- and need for formalizing the Water Roundtable, as a platform for Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). The application of this tool made it possible to detect the unsound situation of water governance.

In November 2014, a board of directors was formed, and work began on an action plan.

Since then, the following results have been achieved:

  1. Support for legalizing the municipal water committees.
  2. Issuance of a municipal ordinance linked to the protection of water resources and the environment.
  3. Promulgation and discussion of the National General Water Law (Law 620)
  4. Promulgation and discussion of the Special Law for Water and Sanitation Committees (Law 722).
  5. Promotion and formation of child CAPS
  6. Exchange of experiences at the local and regional levels
  7. Preparation of a Water Resource Management Plan for a strategic micro-watersheds, prioritized by the municipal government.

The Water Roundtable members agreed that the significant change they have felt is following: “Through the Water Roundtable, we have had shared lessons-learned that have changed our lives and our communities. This includes becoming aware that future generations also need to live, and enjoy water resources, continuing our struggle to conserve water, and above all, realizing that taking care of water is a shared responsibility, where the municipality, the community and NGOs must work together”