A new plan for water management – for 2015 and beyond

A new plan for water management –
for 2015 and beyond

The first ever management plan for the Danube River Basin has been drafted, describing the significant pressures that affect the region and some real solutions to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive in 2015 and for the years to come.

Credit: Popp

The Danube River Basin Management Plan gives the first-ever detailed basin-wide picture of how pressures in the region will be addressed.

It’s been nine years in the making, but a management plan for the Danube and its tributaries demonstrates an innovative approach for basinwide issues by offering up answers to the pressures and impacts on water status in the region in the form of a Joint Programme of Measures – for some 20,000 river kilometres. The Danube River Basin Management Plan, a draft of which was completed this May, is a result of fifteen contracting parties focusing their efforts to achieve shared goals.

The ICPDR has been working toward this Plan since the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force in 2000. The WFD requires all EU Member States to ensure the ‘good status’ of all surface and ground waters by 2015. In addition, the WFD insists on the development of international river basin management plans to assist in reaching those goals.

While obligatory for all EU Member States, all other Danube countries committed themselves to implementing the Directive, and the ICPDR was made the facilitating platform, with meeting the goals of the WFD its highest priority.

Back to river units. The first step toward drafting the plan was the production of the Danube Basin Analysis 2004. The first comprehensive analysis of the entire river basin, the DBA looked at characterisation, impacts of human activities and economic aspects of water uses in the Danube Basin, and described which water bodies are at risk of failing the WFD environmental objectives by 2015. Furthermore, the Danube Basin Analysis enabled the identification of four significant water management issues that can directly or indirectly affect the quality of surface and groundwater bodies:

  • pollution by organic substances
  • pollution by nutrients
  • pollution by hazardous substances
  • pressures from hydromorphological alterations.

Addressing transboundary issues. The Danube River Basin Management Plan provides a description of each of the significant pressures in the basin corresponding to each significant water management issue, and responds to each with visions and management objectives.

“This is a major outcome, as it gives a detailed basin-wide picture for the first time of the most urgent management issues in detail,” says Marieke van Nood of the European Commission Environment Directorate-General, and Co-chair of the ICPDR’s River Basin Management Expert Group. “But it also identifies areas where more work is needed in the future, such as sediments.”

Though the draft plan includes preliminary data only, it presents results of the water status assessment, and whether or not the WFD objectives of ‘good status/potential’ will be met for specific water bodies. “Data collection was a huge task for all involved and the Danube countries worked hard to deliver the best data available,” says Knut Beyer of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and Co-chair of the ICPDR’s River Basin Management Expert Group. “But serious gaps still exist.”

The management plan also includes an overview of monitoring networks, a final designation of Heavily Modified Water Bodies, exemptions applied under WFD article 4(4) & 4(5), an economic analysis of water uses, an inventory of protected areas and a brief overview of water quantity and climate change issues.

A plan for the whole basin. The entire process has reflected the joint cooperation from all Danube countries, as well as the input from stakeholders across the whole river basin. Public participation has been built into every stage of development, and a draft of the management plan was available for public consultation since May until the end of July 2009.

“One of the commonly stressed necessities with regard to water management is that people have to think ‘outside the water box’, taking into account a broad range of views and interests while implementing ‘Integrated Water Resource Management’,” says Raimund Mair of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management. “It is essential to gain the thinking and contributions of representatives from various sectors with different backgrounds already during the drafting process of the plan.”

To encourage face-to face input, the ICPDR held its Second Stakeholder Conference in Bratislava in June, bringing together a broad spectrum of stakeholders, and the comments will be integrated in the final Plan where appropriate (see article on page 20).

Putting the plan into action. With the first draft of the management plan complete, the ICPDR’s River Basin Management Expert Group will continue to revise it until December. At that time, the final version will go before the Heads of Delegation to the ICPDR for approval at the 12th Ordinary Meeting. Once approved, the Danube River Basin Management Plan with its Joint Programme of Measures will go into effect. A Ministerial Meeting on the plan will be held in February 2010, and all the Danube countries will start work on making the plan a reality.

For more information, please visit:
www.icpdr. org//main/node/17

Kirstie Shepherd is a freelance journalist living in Vienna and has called the Danube River Basin home since 2000.

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