The current governance of landscape water management is divided into a number of overlapping structures and institutions. The area belongs administratively to the River Basin Authority (RBA) of the river Ohre [actually (geo-morphologically) it is the river basin of Oder/Nisa which however mostly spreads in Germany]. But RBA concerns focus only on the bigger river Mandava, the small streams, springs and wetlands are under the supervision of the Forests of the Czech Republic, the state company and its Water Catchment Unit (WCA). There is no local office of these two water management bodies located in the Sluknov area. The nearest local office (of the RBA) is in Ceska Lípa, about one hour drive from the hotspot area. The local Water Management Office is managed by the Municipality of Extended Authority (MEA) Rumburk (most of the hotspot area – North-West) and the Municipality of Extended Authority Varnsdorf (East-South). The responsibility of WMO concerns drinking and sewerage water infrastructure. Water retention in the landscape is the responsibility of the environmental and territorial planning departments of MEAs. Individual Municipalities have also some authority over water management (at least a passive one in terms that any change affecting the life in the site must be approved by them).
The Regional Government (REG) in Usti nad Labem has also some authority over water management in the hotspot area. The concerns of REG (expressed in interviews) are drinking water supply in terms of availability and quality. And finally, the State Land Office is authorized to take measures for improving water management in the landscape during the land consolidation project. Actually, the need for improving water management can be a reason for initiating the land consolidation project in a municipality.
The lack of coordination and clear distribution of responsibilities over landscape water retention seems to be the first critical weakness of the current system. Probably, the most concerned are officers of the MEA Rumburk, however finding it difficult to take responsibility for the areas behind the border of the municipality.
Since there are no signals that ground water and water retention in the landscape will receive a national or at least regional (NUTS3) top down coordination we concentrate on the option that local actors will take a collective action. – The Land Consolidation Programme, the Rural Development Programme with the support to non-productive investment, Operational Programme Environment etc. are good opportunities to get financial support for the implementation of water retention measures.
Advances of the governance strategy:
The participants of the last workshop agreed that the best platform for a water retention collective action will be the existing LAG (Local Action Group) – the Czech North (MAS Český sever).
The advantage of the LAG based collective action is that it already involves all important local stakeholders (farmers, municipalities, local businesses) in the hotspot area. Over the years of its existence the LAG has also received recognition and credit among many outside stakeholders (authorities). LAG has its internal (democratic) governance structure and some experience with resolving/mediating conflicts among members. LAG additionally has experience in creating strategies and development plans, their financing and monitoring and evaluation.
A certain weakness might be that LAG role in possible coordination of water management activities have not been envisaged in the definition of LEADER programme and thus it might be difficult to incorporate them in the revised LAG strategy. Also, the outside investors in farming might find difficult to accept the authority of LAG.
In cooperation with the two MEAs (Rumburk and Varnsdorf) the LAG might address the needs for TM and OM in the hotspot area and develop a plan of their gradual implementation. LAG will then coordinate activities of individual municipalities and other actors and help to resolve conflicts among land owners/managers as well as water users.
Expectations after the implementation:
According to the old records there were about 300 ponds in the hotspot area. Collective action using external funds (Land consolidation programme, RDP, OP Environment etc.) will renew most of them or replace them by other effective TM, promote adoption of relevant operational measures and organize the maintenance of the TM. This will presumably improve the retention capacity of the landscape which will increase water reserves in the soil.