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JCI at a Glance References Selected Projects Preparatory Study for the New Water Law of the Republic of Serbia
Preparatory Study for the New Water Law of the Republic of Serbia PDF Print E-mail

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management/National Water Directorate
Project Team:
Miodrag Milovanović, B.S.C.E., Svetlana Varga, B.S.C.E. Slađana Milojković, B.S in Econ. and associates.

Serbia has extensive legislation that regulate its water sector. In addition to the Water Law and associated sub-legal acts, the water sector is addressed by legislation related to environmental protection, spatial planning, construction, local administration, utilities, mining, energy, agriculture, forestry, navigation, geological exploration, waste management, concessions, foreign investments, and the like. Nevertheless, this does not provide a sound basis for integrated water management in Serbia, consistent with the principles of sustainable development and those promoted by the EU.

Additionally, existing water legislation does not generally reflect a contemporary approach to environmental management, and consequently to water management, and is not in accord with EU legislation. As such, national water legislation requires harmonization with EU legislation, namely the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and other EU water-related directives.

In the coming years, Serbia needs to change its attitude toward water. Raising public awareness of the role and importance of water for social development should be a primary goal. Currently there is inadequate reliance on contemporary water management guidelines, a problem that would be solved if Serbia were to regulate its water sector in concert with EU legislation, including economic aspects. Namely, the prerequisites for unimpeded water sector operation and development can only be provided through cost-recovery-based pricing of water and water services, and through the implementation of the “polluter pays” principle.

The main objectives of the new Water Law are:

  • To create conditions for water management which ensure that good water status is achieved and water demands met, while recognizing the constraints needed to maintain a natural balance;
  • To comply with international practices and trends in water use, water protection, and protection against the adverse effects of water;
  • To involve the public in decision-making about the operation and development of the water sector, in the evaluation of water resources, and to increase the level of importance of scientific, technical and IT support;
  • Following the “user pays” and “polluter pays” principles, to collect funds from all users and all polluters of water resources and use these funds to implement the main objective of the new law.

This long-term Study included numerous activities, such as:

  • An in-depth review of other Serbian legislation which addresses the water sector (a set of environmental laws, the Utilities Law, the Planning and Construction Law, the Forests Law, and a number of other laws);
  • A detailed study of EU water-related legislation (Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and Council establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy; Council Directive 75/440/EEC concerning the quality required of surface water intended for the abstraction of drinking water; Council Directive 76/160/EEC concerning the quality of bathing water; Council Directive 76/464/EEC on pollution caused by certain dangerous substances discharged into the aquatic environment; Council Directives 80/68/EEC and 2006/118/EC on the protection of groundwater against pollution; Council Directive 2007/60/EC on the assessment and management of flood risks; Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban wastewater treatment; Council Directive 91/676/EEC concerning the protection of water against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources; Council Directive 98/83/EC on the quality of water intended for human consumption; Proposal for a Council Directive 94/C222/06 on the ecological quality of water; and Council Directive 2007/2/EC establishing an infrastructure for spatial information);
  • A review of water legislation of the former Yugoslav republics (the Water Law of Croatia, the Water Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Water Law of Slovenia, etc.)
  • Consultations with stakeholders (institutions and individuals).

Based on voluminous documentation and information compiled and reviewed, as well as on extensive consultations, JCI formulated a number of fundamental principles upon which up-to-date water legislation should be founded:

  1. Water is a public asset which may be used under the conditions set forth by the Water Law;
  2. Water is a renewable resource and, as such, the use of water should be given priority over non-renewable resources; however, it is not an inexhaustible resource and its quality and quantity should, therefore, be protected;
  3. Water is unevenly distributed over space and time. Mitigation of the adverse effects of this requires substantial investment (construction of dams with reservoirs, and recharge of groundwater aquifers), and delivery of water from areas of relative abundance to areas of scarcity (water transfer);
  4. Water sector planning and water management planning should be integrated at a river basin level, to reduce unit cost and protect water resources from destructive human activity;
  5. Available water resources should be used efficiently, promoting self-reliance in water saving and protection, and recognizing legitimate interests of all users, with priority given to drinking water supply and the conservation of ecosystems;
  6. Water has an economic value and, as such, it has to: ensure stable financing; introduce realistic water prices and water-related service charges (“user pays” principle) over a period of several years, to support the operation, maintenance and development of the water infrastructure; and, ensure that polluters pay realistic wastewater treatment prices (“polluter pays” principle);
  7. Any withdrawal of or undertaking in water should comply with the Water Law.

These basic principles have been incorporated into the new Water Law, as a precondition for the implementation of set objectives.

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