Regulation, Technology, and Water: 'Buy-In' as a Precondition for Effective Real-Time Advanced Monitoring, Compliance, and Enforcement

Cameron Holley, Darren SINCLAIR

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


All environmental regulators must confront the question: how can they best achieve compliance and enforcement within their resource constraints? This has become a particularly vexing enquiry, as public budgets shrink without a commensurate diminishment of regulatory responsibilities. Yet, the rapid innovation and diffusion of new technology has the potential to bring some relief to regulators, including making regulators’ core business cheaper and faster, increasing the ability to prevent, reduce and treat pollution, and driving compliance through transparency and accountability. Despite these many benefits, there are potential obstacles to obtaining buy-in from regulated actors. A lack of buy-in from water users can have significant implications for the effective implementation of new monitoring and information technologies, and their compliance and enforcement benefits. For instance, at the political level, a lack of stakeholder support may lead to political pressure from industry groups that undermine the proposed reforms. Regulated actors who are unreceptive to new technology pose a potential risk to ongoing maintenance of many information and monitoring technologies. Regulated actors’ acceptance and support of monitoring and real-time data access is also vital to enhancing on-site water management and efficiency. In the face of these potential implementation challenges, this Article considers the issue of metering and information diffusion, a prominent example of technology-based regulatory reform, from the perspective of water user buy-in. It identifies six priority areas where environmental regulators should direct their attention to improve stakeholder buy-in, including knowledge and capacity for using new monitoring and information technologies, costs, meter benefits, transparency and use of data, accommodating local and regional variation, and a focused communication strategy. In so doing, this Article fills a knowledge gap about new monitoring and information technologies in agricultural and water regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-66
Number of pages15
JournalGeorge Washington Journal of Energy & Environmental Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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