2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Study Area
2.2. Institutional Analysis by the Ostrom Methodology
2.2.1. External Variables
Biophysical and Environmental Conditions: The Water Quality Index
Rules-in-Use: Current Legal Framework of Ecuador
2.2.2. Action Situations
Organizational Aspects: Participatory Surveys
2.2.3. Analysis of Interactions and Outcomes and Formulation of Recommendations
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. External Variables
3.1.1. Biophysical and Environmental Conditions: Water Quality Index (WQINSF)
3.1.2. Rules-in-Use: Current Legal Framework of Ecuador
- Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador establishes that society has the right to live in an ecosystem free of contamination, declaring its preservation and conservation of public interest .
- Articles 261, 262, 263 and 264 establish that the Central State, the Regional Governments, the Provincial Governments, and the Municipal Governments have the following responsibilities: The protection of natural resources, the ordering of the hydrographic basins, the provincial environmental management, and the provision of sewerage and water purification services residuals .
- In September 2015, the 193 member states of the United Nations outlined a sustainable development agenda for 2030 with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will be monitored through global indicators .
- Among these, SDG 6 states the following: By 2030, water sources must be decontaminated, the amount of untreated wastewater cut in half .
- Regarding the organic and ordinary laws, we have the following statements:
- The Organic Law of Water Resources and its Uses established in Article 19 that the creation of an Intercultural and Pluricultural Water Council contributes to the formulation, evaluation, and control of policies on water, focusing on the social control of equitable access to water .
- For the control and regulation of the actors involved in the use of water, Article 21 promotes the creation of the Water Regulation and Control Agency (ARCA) which, according to Article 23, is in charge of drafting technical regulations on water control, as well as regulating its management so that the contamination of watercourses by wastewater does not permanently affect ecosystems .
- Article 25 creates the Hydrographic Basin Council which is involved in the planning, control, and elaboration of all policies that affect the water resources in its jurisdiction. It is composed of a representative of the Single Water Authority and representatives of the users .
- In the event that wastewater discharges pollute a waterway, the state entity, natural, or legal persons must compensate the injured parties as established in Article 66, repairing the ecological impact caused, These may be sanctioned  and according to Article 82, all of this must be accompanied by an involvement of citizens and users who feel affected by the wastewater discharges in their locality .
- The National Environmental Authority (Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition) and the Decentralized Autonomous Governments (GADs) must protect the integrity of water resources, and if these are degraded, they must restore them (Article 69 and Article 80) .
- In Article 151 and Article 161, the untreated wastewater discharges into water bodies are established as a serious offense and its remediation is compulsory. If not complied with, the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition must make the remediation and charge the offender the value of remediation and an additional 20% fine .
- Article 162 states that very serious infractions will be sanctioned with a fine ranging from 51 to 150 minimum wages .
- Article 8 of the Environmental Management Law provides as environmental authority the Ministry of the Environment which issues and regulates the environmental policy .
- Article 6 of the Law on Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution prohibits polluting watercourses due to its negative impacts to ecosystems .
- In Article 210 of agreement No. 061 of the Reform of Book VI of the Unified Text of Secondary Legislation, it is prohibited to use water to lower the pollutant load of the discharge of wastewater into watercourses, making it impossible for offenders to dump wastewater exceeding the parameters established in the annexes of this agreement .
- The Organic Code of Territorial Organization (COOTAD) establishes in its Article 41 and 42 the functions of the provincial GADs on environmental management; Articles 54 and 55 establish the competencies of the cantonal GADs, which are in charge of avoiding environmental contamination within the cantonal territory. Both GADs must adopt their policies in accordance with national policies .
- The cantonal GADs must be coordinated with parochial GADS to eliminate wastewater discharges to watercourses .
- In the National Development Plan 2017–2021 “Toda una vida”, the objective 3 establishes that the rights of nature must be guaranteed for current and future generations .
- The hierarchy of the regulatory framework in Ecuador, according to Article 425 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, establishes the priority of the regulations in the country. Their order is as follows: The Constitution of the Republic, international treaties and conventions, organic laws, ordinary, regional regulations, ordinances, decrees, and regulations . For this reason, we cite governance according to its hierarchical level.
3.2. Action Situation
3.2.1. Actors with Competence in the Quality of the Water of the Zamora River
- Ministerio del Ambiente, Agua y Transición Ecológica (Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition): This institution is in charge of guaranteeing the quality, conservation, and sustainability of natural resources, through the effective planning, regulation, control, coordination, and environmental management of water resources, all through the participation of public and private organizations, as well as citizens, within a framework of respect, integrity, responsibility, and transparency. Although the law prohibits the discharge of wastewater into bodies of water, there has been no tangible effort from this ministry in terms of controlling wastewater discharges. The degree of contamination of the Zamora River is alarming, as shown by the analyses carried out.
- Agencia de Regulación y Control del Agua (Agency for the Regulation and Control of Water—ARCA): This organization regulates and controls the integrated management of water resources, the quantity and quality of water in its sources and recharge areas, and the quality of public services-related water. To date, it has not been involved in solving the serious environmental problem of the Zamora River.
- Gobierno Autónomo Descentralizado (GAD) Municipal de Loja (Decentralized Autonomous Government of Loja Province): Among other competencies, it is in charge of preparing and executing the provincial development plan, including land use planning and public policies (within the scope of its powers and in its territorial district). This is done in a coordinated manner with national, regional, and cantonal planning, maintaining a constant follow-up on the fulfilment of its established goals. Additionally, it is in charge of planning, building, operating, and maintaining irrigation systems in accordance with the Constitution and the Law. It is also responsible for providing public services, such as drinking water, sewerage, wastewater treatment, solid waste management, and environmental sanitation activities. It is also responsible for avoiding the contamination of the Zamora River. Nevertheless, this institution has not worked in reducing the contamination in the river, nor has it carried out control activities to avoid agricultural irrigation with contaminated water in agricultural areas located in the lower part of the basin. However, it has recently made the decision to build a wastewater treatment plant in Loja, to partially solve the contamination in the river. However, this solution is not definitive as important areas located in the western portion of the city are outside the project’s area of influence. Additionally, clandestine discharges are not controlled.
- Inhabitants of the City of Loja. They are the main affected by the contamination of the Zamora River, not only by the bad odors produced in the river, but also by the consumption of agricultural products that are irrigated with contaminated water. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the city do not have sufficient information on the environmental status of the Zamora River nor spaces for deliberation, which could allow them to be involved in the decision-making process on issues that affect them directly and indirectly.
3.2.2. Organizational Aspects: Participatory Surveys
3.3. Analysis of Interactions and Outcomes and Formulation of Recommendations
3.3.1. Wastewater Governance Gaps
3.3.2. Recommendations for Wastewater Governance
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Effectiveness of water|
|1||Clearly assign and distinguish roles and responsibilities for water policy formulation and implementation, operational management, regulation, and coordination among responsible authorities.|
|2||Manage water at the appropriate scale(s) within integrated river basin governance systems to reflect local conditions and encourage coordination among different scales.|
|3||Promote policy coherence through effective intersectoral coordination, especially between water and environment, health, energy, agriculture, industry, spatial planning, and land use policies.|
|4||Adapt the capacity level of responsible authorities to the complexity of the water challenges that must be met, and to the set of competencies necessary to carry out their functions.|
|5||Produce, update, and share data and information related to water: timely, consistent, comparable, and relevant to policy, and use these data to guide, evaluate, and improve water policy.|
|6||Ensure that governance arrangements help mobilize water finance and allocate financial resources in an efficient, transparent, and timely manner.|
|7||Ensure that robust water management regulatory frameworks are effectively implemented for public interest.|
|8||Promote the adoption and implementation of innovative water governance practices among responsible authorities, levels of government, and relevant stakeholders.|
participation in water
|9||Implement integrity and transparency practices into water policies, water institutions, and water governance frameworks for greater accountability and confidence in decision-making.|
|10||Promote stakeholder participation for informed and results-oriented contributions to water policy design and implementation.|
|11||Foster water governance frameworks that help manage trade-offs among water users, rural and urban areas, and generations.|
|12||Promote regular monitoring and evaluation of water policy and governance when appropriate, share results with the public, and make adjustments if necessary.|
|Effectiveness||1||Clear roles and responsibilities||45%||2.56|
|2||Appropriate scales within basin systems||44%||2.48|
|Efficiency||5||Data and information||36%||2.34|
|9||Integrity and transparency||35%||2.38|
|11||Trade-offs across users||36%||2.48|
|12||Monitoring and evaluation||31%||2.09|
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