Co-ordination and collaboration with the APA
The environmental authority (APA) has the main responsibility for proposing, developing and monitoring the integrated management of environmental policies and sustainable development. It must do so in a manner that takes into account other sectoral policies while also recognising the potential competing interests of other public and private entities. It must take into account the protection and recovery of the environment and the provision of high quality services to Portuguese citizens.
In Portugal the APA also has responsibilities as the water resources authority so that the ERSAR/APA relationship is a core one and a good example of co-ordination and collaboration between authorities.
While the focus of the relationship between the two bodies is on both the use of water resources as raw material for the production of drinking water, as well as the use of water resources as a receiving body for wastewater, it needs to be viewed in the context of the broader environmental policy.
Good institutional co-ordination and interaction requires a clear delineation in the areas of responsibility of those bodies as well as clear direction and joint engagement in developing structured instruments, implementing public policies, interpreting legislation, regulations and contracts and also with regard to information management.
In regard to the need for clear identification of the agencies’ operational boundaries, the interventions APA undertakes as the water resources authority are focused on the set of measures noted in the preceding paragraph. These form the basic interface with water services, as they do with other water users, such as agriculture, industry, energy production, transportation, tourism and leisure.
On the other hand, ERSAR’s interventions are distinct, focusing on the
regulation of water supply and wastewater services, involving suppliers and users, and concerning itself with the sustainability of those services from an integrated perspective and within a context of effectiveness and efficiency. In effect it is regulating just one of the various water sectors. The boundaries that set the framework for the different interventions have been made legally clear and embodied mainly through two intersecting points; water abstraction and the discharge of wastewater, activities that are subject to licensing by the respective authorities.
As for co-ordinated development in the structuring of various instruments, such as the setting up of policies, approval of legislation or even the definition of specific procedures, these should ideally be subject to joint analysis by the appropriate bodies before their approval. This enables the achievement of optimal outcomes through the bringing together of the different perspectives and should aid in preventing unanticipated outcomes and providing a balance between potentially competing viewpoints. For example, the drawing up or revision of water resources legislation requires not only suitable assessment of its environmental effectiveness but also an economic impact assessment of the water services sectors, the stakeholders involved and finally the users, through cost-benefit studies.
The two authorities are represented in the strategic plans for the sector. At the operational level, there are several specific meetings between both authorities to discuss topics and issues common to both. All the legislation impacting on the water and waste water sectors is also subject to consultation with both authorities.
The two authorities undertake prior consultation whenever the drawing up of policies, the approval of legislation or even specific procedures in areas of direct interaction between water resources and water services is concerned. The authorities’ statutes provide for both to be involved in technical support for the legislative process and this occurs in practice.
Various bodies involved in interpreting legislation, regulations and contracts, should not, for obvious reasons, have different interpretations when considering the same or related matters. The risk of lack of uniformity is one of the reasons that it is important to set clear boundaries and where the resources authority is involved these are going to be primarily associated with issues involving abstraction and discharge of water resources. This issue relates not just to interpretation of legislation but in the application legislative instruments by the two authorities. Examples include the use of water resources by entities providing water services, licences for private abstractions in the case of public water services availability, the desalination of sea water, wastewater discharges and the production and use of treated wastewater.
In regard to information management, there is, on the one hand, the need to avoid overlapping information requests to the utilities by different entities and, on the other hand, the need to ensure mutual access to information systems. Good public administration practices again consider that the collection of the same information or similar information, at different times using different procedures should not be undertaken by different bodies where this can be avoided. Unnecessary compliance costs may be imposed through failure to recognise the need to ensure co-ordinated actions in the management of information.
This overlapping information request issue arises regularly in regard to other bodies within the sectors, such as the consumer protection and competition authorities. ERSAR’s leadership commit to strong relationships that encourage sharing of information and commitment on the part of authority staff to consider the burden of its information requests and to consider whether this information can be obtained through other public administration bodies.
For example, it is the duty of the water resources authority to carry out an inventory and maintain a record of the public water domain and set up and keep up-to-date information and water resource management systems, as well as promote communication and ensure the dissemination of information to ensure knowledge of water resources in terms of catchment areas. The regulator has the duty to co-ordinate and carry out the collection and dissemination of information regarding public water supply and wastewater sectors and their respective utilities. Co-ordination is therefore important in the sharing of information for the purposes of the authorities.
APA in its water resources management role is generally responsible for the development and application of national policies in the area of water resources and the general co-ordination, planning and licensing in the management of water resources, with a view to ensuring in particular its protection and proper resource planning. As such, it aims to preserve water resources and ensure their rational use.