If properly carried out, the monitoring and evaluation (ME) functions are meant to give a holistic view of the water resources in a given basin, region or country. Bodies responsible for assessing water resources are typically governmental but could also be outsourced or done in partnership with other institutions such as academic institutes and civil society groups. Monitoring and evaluation requires some degree of technical capacity. The people performing these assessments should be qualified and supported by the appropriate monitoring systems – these can involve gauging stations, labs, measurement, and analysis instruments (C1.03; C2).
Water resource monitoring is about assessing both its physical quantity and quality. Water can exist in different phases (solid, liquid, and gas) and while evaluation usually focuses on liquid resources, other phases are just as important in providing an overall assessment. Evaluating and monitoring water should be done in clear consideration of the hydrological cycle and the physical processes it involves – i.e. evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, runoff, and subsurface flow. In that sense, ecosystem demands should be also taken into account while performing ME functions. A set of adapted indicators needs to be developed so that these various dimensions attached to water can be properly monitored and evaluated.
Monitoring and evaluation bodies are likewise responsible for shedding light on the socio-economic factors that influence water resources. The quantity and quality of water is in fact very much intertwined with the people and economic activities that surrounds it. Information collected by monitoring and evaluations bodies can include analysis of user behaviour, elasticity of demand, and the potential effects of demand management policies. ME bodies should also look at activities that do not deal with water per se, but might strongly affect the water quality and quantity (for example, landfills, sludge processing, etc.). Yet again, such kind of evaluation and monitoring requires its own particular set of relevant indicators. When a monitoring and evaluation body is set up in relation to a specific project it can take the form of what is known as Impact Assessment Committees (B1.04).
The primary data on the physical resources should be combined with socio-economic analyses so that trends on stocks and quality can be modelled into progress reports. As said, ME functions are also about tracking the use of water and in that sense may demonstrate the particular weaknesses of the water system. Tracing the evolution of water resources and presenting possible outlooks holds considerable informative and prescriptive values for policy making processes. In determining which parts of the water system are underperforming or could be enhanced, ME bodies are essentially stacking up information that can be used by capacity building entities, for immediate and future purposes.
Insufficient human, financial and technical resources are recognized as the main obstacles for ME bodies. Sometimes these limitations relate to the fact the institutions or governments funding ME entities are themselves restricted to few or little resources. Although, in other cases, limitation can also relate to problems of internal coordination and to poor institutional collaboration. Alike local enforcement bodies (B1.02), it is recommended that ME entities should be financed and receive operational directives from the same body in order to avoid problems caused by internal conflict of interests.
There are the following key points to keep in mind in relation to monitoring and evaluation bodies and to the way they perform their institutional role:
- Because monitoring and evaluation concerns our shared common resources, ME bodies are normally governmental but may in some occasions involve private and community-based partners;
- Water resource monitoring is about assessing physical quantity and quality of water in any of its phases and may take place at one or several phases of the hydrological cycle;
- ME bodies need to also take the socio-economic activities into consideration as they have such an influence on water resources;
- Specific and relevant indicators are needed for monitoring and evaluation functions to be effectively carried out;
- It is important that monitoring and evaluation also happens at the project level, especially when dealing with water infrastructure (B1.04). Many times, ME work is imposed on public entities, but different donors want to fast track the projects in ways the ME responsibilities are overlooked;
- The work done by ME bodies hold informative and prescriptive value for the development of better and more sustainable water policies;
- Assessing water resources requires sufficient resources, particularly human, technical and financial;
- Monitoring and evaluation bodies should receive directives and be financed by the same authority so that they don’t suffer from intra- and inter-institutional coordination problems.