3.1. Legal Framework and Actors
Nicaragua enacted its Water Law in 2007 [7
], with IWRM and the Dublin Principles as the basis for this new regulatory framework [24
]. It was believed this law and its new legal arrangements would propel good water governance in Nicaragua [24
]. However, it has been documented that, in Nicaragua and other developing countries, there are constraints of [11
] low budget allocations [4
], a partial or complete lack of accountability and transparency, and limited technical capacity and human resources [24
], factors that limit the implementation of any governance instrument.
Policy and politics are linked since policies are guidelines and strategies already sanctioned by decision makers. Governments agree to change frameworks, in this case the legal framework for the water sector, even if they have no intention to comply with it [47
], but van der Zaag [50
] argues that a long and transparent participatory process to adopt fairness actions such as integrated water resources management is the key for a successful implementation.
Other authors, such as LaVanchy, Romano [4
], state that “despite its apparent potential in an ideal world, IWRM has not been implemented effectively in the real world and has become a point of debate and criticism among scholars”. Nicaragua highlights that having a long participatory process to enact a new Water Law does not guarantee a full compliance for praxis of good water governance [4
Due to rapid urbanization, population growth, climate change and limited resources [4
], it is important for countries to adopt a water management approach. Although all countries in the Central American region state their commitment to integrated water management, it is notable that they differ in the mechanisms and administration structures designed for such purposes [54
], yet it is not clear how successful these countries have been implementing integrated water resources management [4
]. Table 1
shows the different legal arrangements in Central American countries.
According to Table 1
, based on the type of dependency or independency, there will be a natural bias in the decisions of such institutions and may be hindered, which can be measured using methodologies that study central banks [64
] or using analytical frameworks for institutions in the water sector and guidelines of institutional frameworks applied by Van Hofwegen and Jaspers [65
], though it is not in the scope of this paper to analyse what level of independence the water resources regulators have in Central America.
Nevertheless, enacting the Nicaraguan Water Law was a milestone since it established basic rules for all water users in implementing water governance principles. All water rights belong to the Nicaraguan State [7
], and they are regulated by an independent regulatory agency (IRA), which is autonomous and decentralized from the Central Government (as suggested by Gilardi [66
]). This IRA is the highest-level authority for water resources in Nicaragua, as stated in article 24 of the Water Law [7
]. The National Water Resources Council is established in article 21 of the law, and its functions are further elaborated in articles 22 and 23 [7
], which are important functions at the national level [24
]. This Council’s main functions are to serve as a deliberation forum for central level institutions on national water policies and plans that need implementation at the local level. It is, in essence, a multilevel governance body that has never held a meeting since the enactment of the law in 2007.
The National Water Authority’s (ANA) functions are wide-ranging and include ground and surface water [7
]. The ANA regulates and monitors all national water resources [4
], including water permits, and it is responsible for establishing a national water resources plan and a river basin plan. The ANA works at both the national and local levels [7
The ANA and the 21 RBOs could theoretically be funded through a water abstraction fee paid by all water users, except for the potable water supply sector, but this fee has to be approved in the National Assembly through a special Water Tariff Law [24
] (as stated in article 87 of the law). The fees raised would be managed through the National Water Fund.
The Water Tariff Law has not yet been discussed or approved due to public lobby against from large agricultural and agro-industrial corporations affiliated to the Superior Council of the Private Enterprise (COSEP) [67
]. In contrast, community networks, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academia have also publicly expressed their support for the enactment of this law [68
In the absence of abstraction fees, there is no incentive to change consumptive water uses such as agricultural practices and irrigation systems. Moreover, because of the competing uses, water resources conflicts have already emerged and will continue to be a trend with increased climate change and population growth. Not improving irrigation systems to be more sustainable is against the principles of the law [7
The National Water Fund is established in article 90 of the law; its main objectives are to finance programs and activities related to water policies, water resources plans, and restoration activities [7
]. Another important economic element established in the Water Law is “Payments for Hydrological Ecosystem Services”, in article 93 [7
]. These payments are supposed to serve as incentives to promote the conservation of relevant areas in river basins, such as recharge areas. The establishment of such payments requires an agreement between landowners providing ecosystem services and water users receiving the service, with the additional participation of institutions such as municipalities, the ANA, and others. Currently, there are some payment schemes, but they have mainly been developed within the private sector without the involvement of the public sector.
None of the intended funding instruments introduced by the Water Law have been implemented in terms of the provision of funds for water plans, execution, and monitoring. Therefore, the implementation of the Water Law is limited, due to its dependence on the national budget [4
Regarding decentralization, the Water Law establishes the creation of 21 river basin organizations, which can regulate water permits and monitor river basins at the local level (under technical supervision of the ANA), but none of the 21 RBOs are currently operating, due to budget constraints [4
]. The basin committees are organized through local actors who work voluntarily, they “could have been integral in educating local stakeholders on the aspects of the Law 620” [4
]. Moreover, basin committees are forums for local participatory processes and there can be basin, sub-basin, and micro-basin committees, as stipulated in article 35 [7
], but they have mainly been created in areas where international cooperation agencies (ICAs) fund projects.
The new water system and new institutions established by the Nicaraguan Water Law are depicted in Figure 3
The new Nicaraguan water system established by the Nicaraguan Water Law was meant to promote multilevel water governance and integrated water management at all levels. In this regard, the functions of the National Water Resources Council were based with a multisectoral coordination approach, which includes the approval of national policies and settings of programs and plans at the national and local level. The National Water Authority, in fact, perform on technical and regulatory activities [59
]. The ANA is not under the authority of the National Water Resources Counsil (CNRH), yet some plans and regulations have to be made by the ANA and approved by the CNRH, plus the ANA is solely in charge of water rights allocation, control and monitoring activities [4
] of all water uses in the country [7
According to the Nicaraguan Water Law, RBOs are under the financial and technical supervision of the ANA, their functions derive in operational and administrative matters related to those of the ANA [7
], mainly linked to monitoring water management and local multi sectorial integration. Basin committees are formed by volunteers who work promoting the participatory processes and lobbying with local governments and national institutions to get their opinions be taken into consideration at the decision-level process [7
RBOs should be acquiesced by delegates of government institutions from national and local level as well as local actors, there should be 21 river basins in the country in order to shorten the path for information sharing and to effectively deliver targeted outcomes [4
]. Likewise, basin committees are integrated by local actors to provide a broad range of local understanding to implement strategic planning [70
3.3. Socio-Ecological System Narratives
In this section, we describe the second-tier variables based in the literature review and responses obtained from actors through application of semistructured interviews. The narrative structure of second-tier variables contextualizes the responses given by interviewees to diagnose the SES of multilevel water governance in the Pacific and Central Regions of Nicaragua. This narrative style also provides an easier operationalization of third-tier variables and a better understanding of the working definitions summarized in Table 2
, Table 3
and Table 4
, which address the gaps for actions’ prioritization. Column (e) also specifies which question from the semistructured interview matches which third-tier variable.
The actors (A
) of the socio-ecological system of this study are water users, government and non-governmental organizations, and networks who work in the obtainment, distribution and development of multiple goods and services [19
], and are the ones who determine the multilevel governance status. (A
2) Nicaragua is characterized by the uneven demographic distribution of the population, the dependency of the national economy on the export of primary products and its low resilience to natural events since it is the country with the lowest income per capita in Central America [71
]. Despite it was not a direct variable obtained from interviews as a constrain, it is important to highlight that (A
4) spatial demographic distribution, is connected with the availability of natural resources, as well as infrastructure and the offer of services, this helps to understand the distribution of water supply demands and the needs in multiple uses of water. (A
5) Actually, leadership and entrepreneurship are manifested on the local level by basin committees and CAPS (A
6), the internal norms are stablished by its members and approved by INAA. (A
7) Projects for water management are scarce and developed in specific geographical areas, with limited diffusion of SES conceptualization. (A
9) At local level, just a few CAPS are equipped with basic technology to monitor water flow and to measure in situ water quality; in these cases, the equipment has been granted by NGOs.
Through the content analysis of interviews, resource system (RS) and resource unit (RU) were defined in correspondence with the subtractability and excludability characteristics of the resource in order to characterize interdependencies of variables in the socio-ecological system [16
]. It is important to notice that the conceptualization of resource system and resource unit are “closely linked in a one-to-one relationship” [19
], nevertheless, we make it suitable to the concepts provided by McGinnis and Ostrom [10
] and Leslie, Basurto [72
], who define RS as the set of processes and particular living and working biophysical conditions, and temporal domains in which the stocks of a resource unit occurs. The corresponding SES analysis of multilevel water governance in Nicaragua is developed around (RU
) water resources, (RU
6) both surface and underground. (RS
2) River basins and their hydrological processes are the resource system under analysis.
1) water is constantly in motion, characterized by being highly heterogeneous in space and time [73
3) Nicaragua is hydrographically distributed in 21 river basins (RU
5), with a total of 94 main rivers distributed all over the country; (RU
3) eight river basins, accounting for 18 main rivers, drain into the Pacific Ocean and 13 river basins, accounting for 23 main rivers, drain into the Caribbean Sea, 45 main rivers drain into the Nicaraguan lake and eight into the Managua lake [5
]. The 53 rivers that drain into the Nicaraguan and Managua lakes are directly connected to the Caribbean Sea through the San Juan River [74
7) We also highlight that 7.6% of the country’s surface area is made up by the Nicaraguan lakes [5
]. There are not official data on the estimates of total runoff, recharge, and production of surface and underground water in Nicaragua. The existing studies focus on some micro-basins located in the Pacific Region [71
]. The most studied underground water bodies are the Leon-Chinandega plain, the Carazo Plateau, the Nicaraguan Depression, the Central Province, and the Atlantic Deposits [5
]. Nevertheless, as stated in LaVanchy, Romano [4
], water availability or water insecurity is not “always defined by the physical amount of water available via natural processes, but are more often the result of a convergence of issues reflecting power dynamics”.
1) At national level, the ANA is the highest authority [7
]. Nevertheless, there are multiple government institutions at the national and local levels with roles defined within the water sector (Figure 4
2) There are also a large quantity of non-government organizations established throughout the Pacific and Central Regions of Nicaragua with a working approach in rural areas, as well as (GS
3) network structures, as is the case for 4961 CAPS with rural water supply systems installed [76
]; only two basin committees are actually operating (Dipilto River and Estelí River Basin), productive networks are grouped independent of their production branches, besides the collaboration of universities. (GS
4) The Nicaraguan Water Law frames the priority of water uses in article 46 [7
], and the CAPS Law establish equity in local participation for integrated water management [30
5) Since the Nicaraguan water system (framework) is not in full implementation, the ANA assumed functions of RBOs and basin committees where there is no formal presence. The ANA does not have delegates at the local level.
6) The Sector Strategies and the Annual Operational Plans (POAs) elaborated by institutions involved in the water sector must comply with the guiding principles and other government policies, especially the National Plan for Water Resources (which is still in elaboration) [7
7) The governance system is supported by the Nicaraguan Water Law and complementary legal instruments. (GS
8) The monitoring of water resources is done by ANA, INETER, MARENA and MINSA. INIFOM, FISE and local network structures provide monitoring within their operational approach. Sanctions are enforced by ANA via the administrative procedures [7
] and PGR in the penal prosecution [78
1) Although Nicaragua maintained a good growth rate between 2016 and 2017 according to the World Bank [80
], it is still categorized as a low-income country [81
) The organs of the Nicaraguan public administration linked to the management of water resources, as a product of a sectoral approach share overlapping competences [82
]; nevertheless, (S
4) the real problem lies in the conflicts of competences between one-person or individual bodies and collective or collegiate bodies, when collegiate bodies are created without real functionality, as is the case with the CNRH [83
5) Nicaragua does not have a diversified industrial structure, and its trading performance is correspondingly weak, relying on basic agricultural commodities [81
6) There is not a specific mechanism to encourage the diffusion and implementation of water resource policies and strategies.
2) Government institutions that provide official data, also provides relevant information in their websites; however, technical monitoring data is not free of charge. No official mechanisms for information and knowledge sharing between organizations and networks has been stablished. (I
3 and I
6) As stated in the Nicaraguan Water Law, participation of multiple actors in debating and lobbying activities is a provision for decision making [7
4) According to the Nicaraguan Water Law, the ANA has water conflicts resolution competences [7
5) In correspondence to investment activities, we notice that the economic dependence on primary production should give greater importance to the problems associated with water management because it is an indispensable resource for carrying out the most important productive activities for the Nicaraguan economy [71
8 and I
10) Local networks are supposed to be monitored and technically supported by government institutions, such as UMAS and INAA in rural areas with independent water supply and sanitation systems.
1) The social performance measures in correspondence with interviewee answers depends on the efficiency in the formulation of projects, equity in the distribution of natural, technical and economic resources, the accountability of all the actors in the SES, and the evaluation of the real effects of the deliberation processes. According to Ingram [84
], legitimate participatory decision-making processes help to reply in a consensus and democratic way to common needs and they also increase trust between actors.
Despite the heterogeneity of the interviewees, we consider each variable as the perspective of governance by stakeholder groups. In other words, third tier-variables identified, are wide in correspondence with the nature of the interviewees who provided the information. As the third-tier variables were organized according to density values obtained through a quantitative analysis of the interview findings, it was possible to ascertain the major factors influencing the interactions between system components.
As we emphasized in Section 2.3
, although 52% of interviewees are local government officers, the remaining belong to multiple network structures; nevertheless, this ratio does not make a sound difference in the relationship between observed variables density value and the underlying concepts of multilevel water governance. Furthermore, differences were taken into account when placing the observed data from third-tier variables and combining them into aggregate water governance variables, as stated in Figure 5
. In order to distinguish between variables in this dimension, the descriptive statistics of density works as a relative indicator of activeness and a measure of connectivity for variables according to responses. By the application of density measure, it was possible to range third-tier variables of the SES framework from 0.0009 to 0.8365. Nevertheless, we divided these variables into five-way classification, corresponding to second-tier concepts.
The most noticeable gaps concerning the implementation of multilevel water governance in Nicaragua were linked to (S4a) compliance with the environmental regulatory and policy framework, (S1b) income sources, (S3a) regulatory framework compliance, (GS1c) decision-making processes, (GS6a) collective choice rules, (GS1a) technification, (A7a) local knowledge, (A6a) attitude toward corruption, and (A7b) knowledge of the effect of social attitudes toward multilevel water governance.
The collective actions and subsystems described can interfere with the interactions of system components, and thereby affect the outcomes. The major factors affecting interactions in the implementation of multilevel water governance were (I5a) investment activities, (I2b) information sharing, (I3b) knowledge of participation mechanisms, (I6a) lobbying activities, (I10a) evaluation activities, and (I8b) partnership and cooperation.