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The essential role of local, elected officials in preserving water

Whether for raising the awareness of stakeholders or implementing projects in the field, the participation of local, elected officials is essential in efforts to preserve and restore the quality of water.

Management and preservation of water resources involve a large number of stakeholders and, first among them, the local, elected officials. Their role is essential in setting up the local policies required to achieve good water status. To assist officials in better understanding the issues, Onema and the Water agencies organised a round-table discussion1 on 21 November 2012 at the Conference of mayors and local governments. The goal of the round table was to present project feedback and encourage local officials to launch management procedures for water, notably for river restoration and against nonpoint-source pollution.

Raise the awareness of the population concerning water issues
The officials at the meeting described how they inform on issues and involve all stakeholders in a given territory in view of succeeding a collective project to preserve resources. Methods include internet sites, newsletters, various events and public meetings. Public opinion polls on projects for the territory are a means to learn what people are thinking and to bring them into the projects. In the Arve valley, local officials have an extraordinary means of communication in the TV8 Mont Blanc television station that regularly broadcasts shows on water issues. Finally, the awareness of inhabitants can be raised via their children by organising educational field trips at school.

A framework for projects
Better management of water resources also requires the use of planning tools for territorial projects, e.g. sub-basin management plans. To date, 174 SBMP perimeters have been set up in France, a clear indication of the interest in the tool on the part of local officials. A chapter on water can also be included in a SCOT (coherent territorial plan), e.g. the SCOT set up in 2010 by the board for the Brive river basin which does not have an SBMP. To transform the water-preservation projects into effective zoning regulations, the board received technical and financial assistance from the Adour-Garonne water agency, notably for the status report. "For ecological continuity, we placed particular importance on preserving riparian zones by requiring that they be zoned as natural areas", notes Patricia Broussolle, president of the Sud-Corrèze SCOT. Mayors can also employ a contractual approach. Around the city of Niort, a project to restore the quality of water in priority water abstractions resulted in contracts with farmers concerning environmental measures and conversions to organic farming in order to reduce the sources of pollution. "At the end of 2012, 20% of the 160 square kilometres supplying the abstraction were under contract", said Franck Michel, deputy mayor of Niort.


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