Swedish water planning overhaul proposed

Report recommends "environmental joint ventures," NGO involvement, water charges

An official Swedish advisory committee has recommended sweeping changes to the management of water resources. Led by Liberal MP Eva Eriksson, the committee recommends "environmental joint ventures" as a way to encourage active involvement of the various groups affected by water management.

Released on Friday, the new report follows interim recommendations published in June, which focused on administrative questions and called for the creation of catchment-based regional water planning authorities (ENDS Daily 24 June).

Now the committee has turned its attention to the challenge of involving not only regulatory authorities but also other parties in water use planning. "Joint action groups," involving several private sector participants and working in limited geographical areas, should be encouraged, the committee recommends.

Such joint ventures could work in a number of different ways, it concludes, from developing plans for whole districts to focusing on very local issues. It suggests that joint venture participants could work with a planning authority to produce local policy plans aimed at meeting official targets for environmental quality. Participants in a joint action group should be eligible for a "release from general regulations," it concludes.

The conclusions are based in part on the experience of several pilot projects begun during the investigation in the Nyköping, Mässingbo/Brunnsjö, Em and Genevad river catchment areas.

Among other recommendations made by the committee are a call for local citizens' groups to be given a formal role in water planning. "Water conservation organisations should participate more actively in [local] planning," it concludes. "This can be done by making them bodies to which referral is obligatory."

Second, the committee suggests introducing a general system of water charges, to be applied to industrial discharges and water abstraction. Charges "should apply to all sources of importance," the committee says, including abstraction for agriculture and power generation. Part of the revenues raised, it recommends, should be recycled within the local area and used to pay for uneconomic water improvement measures.

Follow Up:
Swedish environment ministry, tel: +46 8 450 1000.

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