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A basin is a depression, or dip, in the Earth’s surface. Basins are shaped like bowls, with sides higher than the bottom. They can be oval or circular in shape, similar to a sink or tub you might have in your own bathroom. Some are filled with water. Others are empty.
Basins are formed by forces above the ground (like erosion) or below the ground (like earthquakes). They can be created over thousands of years or almost overnight.
Roles of Facilitators in Basins
The term “basin organisation” refers to any formal or informal entity that manages water resources at the basin scale. Their mandate is to take a big picture perspective and be the leading voice on basin-wide water issues. This means keeping basin constituencies and decision-makers in all sectors and at all levels, in both the public and private sector, fully informed and involved. The focus here is the basin organisations that are domestic, not transcending state boundaries (see B3.01 for transboundary organisations in water resource management).
Basin organisations are set up under different arrangements depending on the aim, the legal and administrative systems, and human and financial resources. They are usually, but not always, formal legal bodies. In some cases, less formal arrangements also work. But, whatever the setup, basin organisations must be public/collective organisations because water resources management is a public good. Although formal basin organisations are part of the public sector, for water to be managed effectively, a wide range of stakeholders, community groups, economical sectors, non-governmental organisations and private enterprise, need to be involved.
Basin organisations have functions that can stretch in three main directions:
Monitoring, investigating, coordinating and regulating – involves collecting and managing data regarding water quantity and availability; prevent water pollution; harmonize actions taken by state and non-state actors, and resolve conflict in the case of litigation.
Planning and financing – implies to allocate water to users based on respective needs; formulate medium- to long-term plans for water resources management in the basin; and mobilise financial resources, for example, by collecting water user fees or water taxes.
Developing and managing – means designing and constructing water facilities; maintaining the water infrastructure; and operating them in ways to ensure water distribution and navigation amongst different functions of water.
Varying opinions exist about the most effective scale of application: the success of a basin organisation may depend on things such as the level of human and institutional capacity of the civil society, the degree to which water resources are developed, and climatic variability (arid versus temperate river basins, for example). Also, since basin organizations are not bound to the regular administrative borders (such as the differences between provinces or counties) it makes it sometimes difficult to communicate with several local administrative authorities. In some ways, the fact that basin organisations are not limited to administrative borders represents both their strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, it is the policy and legislative framework that governs the purpose, and even more so the effectiveness, of the basin organisation.