Fishing resources

The general law of water resources: Is my company obliged to comply with this new law?

Among the innovations of the law is the creation of sub-sectors and the respective competent entities for each of them.

The General Water Resources Law (“Law”) approved by the Legislative Assembly on December 21, 2021 after almost six months of discussion and revision of the draft presented by the Minister of the Environment to the Assembly on June 18 2021. The law was published in the Official Journal n° 8 volume 434 of January 12, 2022 and will enter into force six months after its publication in the Official Journal.

The law is innovative in all respects as it regulates the use and development of water resources as well as sanitation, with the creation of a new authority – the Salvadoran Water Authority (ASA) – and a register of water resources, the establishment of new procedures, authorizations and obligations for both natural and legal persons, private and public.

Subsectors. Among the innovations of the law is the creation of sub-sectors and the respective competent entities for each of them, namely:

  • Drinking water and sanitation: the competent entity in this sub-sector is the Ministry of Health with regard to drinking water; the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) is the competent entity with regard to the sanitation sub-sector.
  • Water for agricultural, aquaculture and fishing purposes: the competent authority is the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
  • Water for hydroelectric purposes (from the reservoirs mentioned in the law): the competent authority is the Comisin Ejecutiva Hidroelctrica del Ro Lempa (CEL), and for the particular cases of other uses, it will be ASA.
  • Water for industrial, agro-industrial, recreational and other uses: the authority is ASA.

Authorizations and permits. It is necessary to highlight the obligations that govern the natural and legal persons who currently exploit and make use and exploitation of water resources, or waste water discharges to means of reception. At this point, it is important to note that the law establishes, among other things, authorizations for the use of a certain quantity and quality of water, surface or underground, which can be of two levels, depending on the volume of use, as follows: if the volume is equal to or greater than 365,000 cubic meters per year, the authorization will be level 1 and will have a duration of up to 15 years; if the volume is less than 365,000 cubic meters, the authorization will be level 2 and its duration may be up to five years. Thus, the law establishes that those wishing to use and exploit the national waters will have a period of one year from the entry into force of the law to request the corresponding authorization according to the annual volume.

On the other hand, the law also establishes the discharge permit which will authorize discharge to a receiving body that is located on public or private property. The period of validity of this permit will be 3 years. On this point, the law also establishes the obligation for natural or legal persons who pay for the means of reception, to deal with and regularize their situation within a period not exceeding one year from the entry into force of law.

The law also establishes that persons using drilled wells and drilling companies must regularize their situation before the ASA within a maximum period of one year from the date of entry into force of the law.

Charges. In addition to authorizations and permits, the law also establishes fees for the use and development of water, for discharges and for the use of property forming part of the public water domain. Although the law establishes the formula for calculating the charges, the values ​​of the coefficients will be established by ASA in the regulations of the law, so the elaboration of the regulation or regulations of the law is fundamental to have a complete vision and more specific law enforcement framework.

Conclusion. With the approval of the law, it is necessary to closely follow the publication of its regulations, since these could clarify or define the procedures that those who must adapt to the law must follow for these purposes, and so determine more precisely the requirements and procedures to be followed for the legalization of wells and the obtaining of authorizations or permits.