REVIEW OF THE LOCAL AUTHORITY WATERS PROGRAMME (LAWPRO)

Dr. Matt Crowe
January, 2021

This review is presented in two parts.

Part 1 presents an assessment of the overall strategic landscape within which LAWPRO sits, together with some implications for the future direction of LAWPRO.

Part 2 presents the assessment of LAWPRO drawing on some of the key learnings from the strategic review set out in Part 1.

The main objectives of the assessment were:

  1. Assess the role and contribution of LAWPRO to the current level of progress in implementing the actions outlined in the second-cycle River Basin Management Plan (RBMP).
  2. Complete a full review of the LAWPRO operation, building on work already completed, to consider its effectiveness in delivering on its objectives and to identify opportunities for improving and strengthening its operation during the next RBMP, taking into account the ambition of the third RBMP.
  3. Examine the opportunities for integrating and delivering on water policy, Climate Change, Biodiversity and broader economic, social and environmental sustainability objectives and identify the role that LAWPRO might play in achieving this during the third RBMP cycle.
    The review is based on an assessment of the documents provided by The Department for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH), in particular, the external review of LAWPRO, LAWPRO’s submission to the DHLGH, the research conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), the business cases for both the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office (LAWCO) and the Local Authority Support and Advice Team (LAWSAT), the 2018 and 2019 Annual Reports for LAWPRO, the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) internal report, Significant Water management Issues consultation submissions and the current river basin management plan.

Notes

“the 3rd cycle plan must explicitly deal with any exemptions being applied in accordance with the provisions of the Directive, including where natural conditions are being invoked as a reason for aiming for less stringent objectives”

clarity about the respective roles of LAWPRO and local authorities

“if the 3rd cycle plan makes it explicit through prioritisation and goal setting that protecting and improving waters are of equal importance, then LAWPRO should have a lead role in both strategies. Currently, LAWPRO’s primary focus is on the Priority Areas for Action (PAA) which are mainly about seeking improvement in water quality. This is fine for the remainder of the second cycle but will not be enough for the 3rd cycle which will require clear and fully integrated catchment strategies for protecting and improving all water bodies.

“more emphasis should be placed by both LAWPRO and ASSAP on how the various steps in the process translate into the ‘right action in the right place at the right time’ actually happening, how it is verified and recorded that it has happened and the subsequent impact on water quality. This will be the real acid test of how the entire LAWPRO/ASSAP process is working

“Progressing the blue dots catchment programme objective has been very slow”

Set “clear and straightforward objectives” for LAWPRO – “These high level KPIs will need to include both quantitative and qualitative indicators”

“LAWPRO’s role in converting advice into action is also worth considering as there have to be consequences for either Implementing Bodies or land owners not taking action once the ‘right action in the right place at the right time and by the right person or organisation’ has been identified and agreed”

“Ideally, local authority staff would also engage on a regular basis with local agricultural advisors when it comes to engaging with local farmers so that a level of consistency is brought to providing farmers with advice about what to do”

The five regional operational committees have broad representation from the various implementation bodies and are perfectly positioned to facilitate a ratcheting up of collaborative implementation at catchment and sub-catchment levels

“It is difficult to nail down in precise terms the ‘stated objectives’ of LAWPRO” – Clarify the precise objectives set for LAWPRO for the third cycle. They will not necessarily be the same as for the second cycle. Without clear and straightforward objectives, it is difficult to track progress and to evaluate relative success over time.

LAWPRO currently use indicators to track meeting numbers and levels of participation. These provide evidence of ‘showing up’ but say little about the quality of participation, buy-in and engagement or how people feel about the engagement.

Under the current arrangements, neither LAWPRO or ASSAP can force the problem owner, be they another public body, a body corporate or a private citizen, to take the right action in the right place at the right time but are relying on the goodwill and cooperation of the problem owner to take the necessary action.

A key ‘de-minimus’ purpose for the blue dots catchment programme was to coordinate activities across all Implementing Bodies to ensure that actions were undertaken at these 141 water bodies to maximise the chances of their meeting their high-status objective. Ideally, the programme would also maintain a watching brief of the 243 water bodies deemed not at risk to ensure they remained so and did not deteriorate in quality

Growing need for up to date information about both water quality and the actions being taken (the right action in the right place) so that as dynamic and up to date a system of information as possible is available for both practitioners and the public

The key outcome is ‘an improvement in water quality in the priority areas for action (PAAs)’.

Note: author unable to locate EPA KPI mechanism, first created in 2019

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