OECD hosts workshop on Innovative Policy Instruments for Water Quality Management

OECD hosts workshop on Innovative Policy Instruments for Water Quality Management

EIP Water participated at a recent OECD Workshop on Innovative Policy Instruments for Water Quality Management (17-18 March 2016, The Hague, Netherlands). Water quality in OECD countries continues to deteriorate despite improvements in the control of industrial point source pollution and wastewater treatment. As a consequence, the relative importance of diffuse pollution loads is increasing in OECD countries, and increasing treatment and regulation of point source pollution is no longer necessarily the most cost-effective approach to improving water quality. Ongoing problems in water quality in OECD countries are characterised by a number of pollutants, none more so than nutrient pollution, primarily from agricultural sources, which leads to eutrophication and harmful algal blooms. Prevailing solutions to control diffuse source pollution (e.g. voluntary subsidies and regulatory instruments) often fail to deliver expected outcomes. There is opportunity to better design and implement voluntary and regulatory instruments, and to harness economic instruments, to achieve water quality outcomes.

The aim of the Workshop was to enhance knowledge of effective and innovative water quality policies, to ultimately deliver improved water quality outcomes in OECD countries. The Workshop built on the preliminary draft report The Economics of Water Quality in OECD Countries and BRICS undertaken by the OECD Secretariat, and discussed at the last meeting of the Working Party on Biodiversity, Water and Ecosystems, 21-23 October 2015, Paris. The objectives of the workshop were to:

- Take stock of recent developments of water quality reform and innovative management practices in OECD countries;

- Identify lessons learnt from case studies and requisites for effective policy design and implementation; and

- Discuss barriers to effective policy reform and improvements in water quality, and how these may be overcome.


The very interesting presentations and discussions have been summed up by OECD in a report to be released early next year (for further information please contact Hannah.LECKIE@oecd.org). EIP Water identified the following highlights or strategy elements to be taken into account in addressing barriers to water innovation: Barriers are mainly political, and not of technical nature. The water sector needs to improve its story-telling in order to access the financial resources required for renewal, upgrading and innovation. Health aspects should be considered when assessing pollution pressures. Citizens can play a relevant role in water quality monitoring. Incremental innovation seems insufficient to solve problems of diffuse pollution and emergent pollutants. The polluter-pays-principle is not successfully being implemented for addressing diffuse pollution.