Briefing Note to the Minister

BRIEFING NOTE TO THE MINISTER 5

BriefingNote to the Minister

BriefingNote to the Minister

Purpose

Thisnote aims to inform the minister about the pertinent issuessurrounding the way the government the government commitment toimplement the recommendations of James Bruce’ Expert Panel onGroundwater way back in 2007 (Bakker &amp Cook, 2011). As it hasbeen noted in the media and other public forums such as the recentlyheld inter-agency roundtable on the state of groundwater management,the government stopped at financing and initiating the panel, but hasmade insignificant progress on implementing what the Expert paneldeliberated upon. The roundtable held its sessions from 23rdOctober to 5thNovember 2014. Since the implementation of that report vitallysignifies the overall government commitment on issues of climatechange and resource management. Thus, the minister may opt to makeinstant deliberated responses on the concerns that would be raised bythe media, members of the public, and the opposition.

CurrentSituation

Despitethe Expert’s report on groundwater, there is nogovernment-initiated legislation and institution capacity that canensure that groundwater management is sustainable. The public, themedia, and other alternative voices are concerned that the governmentis oblivious of the fact that groundwater is the source of cleanwater for a vast section of the national population (Guttman,Salameh, Rosenthal, Tamimi &amp Flexer, 2009).

Thedissenting groups mentioned above raised the following issues in thescope of James Bruce’ 2007 report. Coincidentally, the roundtableheld last year raised similar issues that are currently makingheadlines in the media. Therefore, the government should anticipatequestions that focus on the following issues, which can possibly beresolved if the government through the minister show leadership (theyare all related to the government’s non-committal attitude towardsaddressing emerging stresses on groundwater resources):

  1. There is no evidence of tangible plans to deal with the implications increased population growth and concentration in urban centers on watershed protection and land utilization, which have direct effects on the quality of groundwater.

  2. The current legislation and enforcing agencies do not have capacity to act on the ever-increasing risk of contamination by pathogens, underground nitrates, and other residues.

  3. The government must show evidence that it is balancing the need to serve the increased global demand for hydrocarbons and the resultant pressure on groundwater adjacent to mining fields and reservoirs.

  4. The public is aware of the presence of already contaminated sites and the ever-increasing need for remediation. Experts had warned before, but the government’s response was lackluster.

Background

Theinteragency roundtable on groundwater made comprehensivedeliberations and reached several conclusions that would first redeemthe government’s image on these issues, and second, direct theministry on how it will adopt Bruce’s report in government policyon groundwater resources. Thus, the ministry should draft a policypaper that would do the following:

  1. Update and make the database more comprehensive especially the 1967 aquifer mapping that members of the public may not be aware of.

  2. Provide a quantitative description of the country’s hydrological regime

  3. Obtain a recently crafted groundwater model that would guide government policy.

  4. Adopt a state-of-the-art model that agencies in all the provinces can use to regulate land use around groundwater sites.

  5. Establish a groundwater monitoring sub-agency to assure the public that government has an institutional commitment.

Nextsteps

Questionsfrom the opposition will take different forms hence, the need for acomprehensive response approved by the cabinet essentially indicatesthe official government position as follows:

  1. Thank the interagency roundtable for making such a bold step of raising the issue since it is part of the government’s long-term development goals.

  2. Acknowledge that the conveners of the roundtable mentioned the budgetary allocations that the government made in the last financial year towards ensuring that groundwater is sustainably harnessed.

  3. Remind all groups that the needed legislation requires political will and resource-based issues cannot be done through executive orders.

References

Bakker,K., &amp Cook, C. (2011). Water governance in Canada: Innovation andfragmentation. WaterResources Development,27(02),275-289.

Guttman,J., Salameh, E., Rosenthal, E., Tamimi, A. R., &amp Flexer, A.(2009). Sustainable management of groundwater resources. In TheWater of the Jordan Valley(pp. 473-480). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.