OECD Studies on Water

ISSN :
2224-5081 (online)
ISSN :
2224-5073 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/22245081
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Water is essential for economic growth, human health, and the environment. Yet governments around the world face significant challenges in managing their water resources effectively. The problems are multiple and complex: billions of people are still without access to safe water and adequate sanitation; competition for water is increasing among the different uses and users; and major investment is required to maintain and improve water infrastructure in OECD and non-OECD countries. This OECD series on water provides policy analysis and guidance on the economic, financial and governance aspects of water resources management. These aspects generally lie at the heart of the water problem and hold the key to unlocking the policy puzzle.

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Making Water Reform Happen in Mexico

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Author(s):
OECD
Publication Date :
08 Jan 2013
Pages :
292
ISBN :
9789264187894 (PDF) ; 9789264187672 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/9789264187894-en

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The report provides evidence-based assessment and policy recommendations in support of Mexico’s water reform. It analyses implementation bottlenecks and identifies good practices in four key areas considered as essential drivers for change in the water sector of Mexico: multi-level and river basin governance; economic efficiency and financial sustainability; and regulatory functions for water supply and sanitation.

This report is the result of a one-year policy dialogue between the OECD and Mexico, after the adoption of the 2030 Water Agenda as a strategic and long-term vision for Mexico’s water sector.

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    Foreword

    Water is not only the source of life for human beings but it has also always played a central role in the economic, social and environmental development of countries. With the looming challenge of climate change, governments are increasingly recognising the urgency of ensuring the sustainable management of water resources. Successful water policies can set a strong basis for improving the life of all citizens, and the 2030 Water Agenda provides a solid start to this process in Mexico. There is now an opportunity for the new administration to make Mexico a leading example of successful water reform in OECD and Latin American countries.

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    Acronyms and abbreviations
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    Executive summary

    In 2011, Mexico launched an ambitious 2030 Water Agenda to achieve, within the next 20 years, clean water bodies, balanced supply and demand for water, universal coverage and settlements safe from catastrophic floods. This strategic planning exercise shows clear political leadership on behalf of the Mexican government to design a long-term vision for the water sector. On the ground, though, making water reform happen is challenging, especially in Mexico where past experience has shown how difficult it can be to translate policy objectives into action. Although Mexico has a well-developed policy framework for water resource management in place, with a number of policy instruments and institutions, policy implementation is still uneven: 20 years after their creation, river basin councils are not fully operational, the regulatory framework for drinking water and sanitation is scattered across multiple actors, and harmful subsidies in other sectors (energy, agriculture) work against water policy objectives. To round out Mexico’s policy framework, action is imperative to increase water productivity and the cost-efficiency of water policies, address multi-level and river basin governance challenges (in particular to bridge inconsistencies between federal and basin priorities), sequence and prioritise reform needs, and support greater policy coherence with agriculture and energy.

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    Assessment and recommendations

    In 2011, Mexico launched an ambitious 2030 Water Agenda to achieve, within the next 20 years, clean water bodies, balanced supply and demand for water, universal coverage and settlements safe from catastrophic floods. This strategic planning exercise shows clear political leadership on behalf of the Mexican government to design a long-term vision for the water sector. On the ground, though, making water reform happen is challenging, especially in Mexico where past experience has shown how difficult it can be to translate policy objectives into action. Although Mexico has a well-developed policy framework for water resource management in place, with a number of policy instruments and institutions, policy implementation is still uneven: 20 years after their creation, river basin councils are not fully operational, the regulatory framework for drinking water and sanitation is scattered across multiple actors and harmful subsidies in other sectors (energy, agriculture) work against water policy objectives. To round out Mexico’s policy framework, it is imperative to take action to increase water productivity and the cost-efficiency of water policies, address multi-level and river basin governance challenges (in particular to bridge inconsistencies between federal and basin priorities), sequence and prioritise reform needs, and support greater policy coherence with agriculture and energy.

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    Introduction: Setting the scene

    There is momentum in Mexico towards more inclusive, integrated and coherent water policy that goes beyond business as usual. The 2030 Water Agenda adopted in 2011 proposes a strategic vision for Mexico’s water sector, with challenging reforms that require a thorough analysis and diagnosis of both the factors that will foster or hinder implementation and the measures that will likely help to overcome them. The agenda also points out what benefits the factors could bring to the water sector.

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    Addressing multi-level governance challenges

    This chapter assesses key multi-level governance gaps identified in Mexico’s water sector and good practices for better managing interdependencies across multiple actors to make water reform happen on the ground. It draws an institutional mapping of who does what in water policy design, regulation and financing, provides particular emphasis on challenges related to institutional and territorial fragmentation, and suggests areas for improvement based on good practices across levels of government as well as in other OECD and non-OECD countries.

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    Strengthening river basin governance

    This chapter focuses on the role of river basin organisations, councils and auxiliary bodies as vehicles for water reform implementation. It provides insight on the current state of integrated water resources management in Mexico, achievements witnessed since the decentralisation of water resources management in 1992, as well as remaining institutional and capacity challenges of the different river basin authorities.

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    Improving economic efficiency and financial sustainability

    This chapter discusses economic efficiency and financial sustainability of water policies in Mexico. It provides an inventory of existing economic instruments in place to manage water resources, discusses shortcomings in their design that limit their contribution to water policy objectives, and suggests ways forward, in particular accompanying measures that can ease reform.

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    Institutionalising regulatory functions in the water and sanitation service sector

    Regulatory responsibilities for water supply and sanitation are scattered across different levels of government and various legal instruments. In addition, the sector suffers from high turnover of local officials and managers, as well as important local political interferences, which affect the performance of service providers. This chapter aims to clarify attributions of regulatory functions in Mexico’s water service sector and discusses how to improve the delivery of key regulatory functions, tools and incentives to better achieve policy outcomes.

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    Making water reform happen: A tentative implementation plan

    This chapter builds on previous OECD work on Making Reform Happen and key findings from this report to suggest a tentative implementation plan to support Mexican water reform in the short term. It puts forward practical steps to consider in the development of the whole-of-government and systemic Action Plan, suggests potential indicators to monitor progress in reform implementation, and highlights good practices in OECD and non-OECD countries that could serve for peer learning. Cross-references are made to the 2030 Water Agenda initiatives and actions that address issues pointed out in the implementation plan.

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