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LIFEnews features 2009

Water: the essence of life

(photo:LIFE00 ENV/UK/000894) (photo:LIFE00 ENV/UK/000894)

European citizens rank water quality as one of their main environmental priorities and a number of LIFE projects are helping to guide the implementation of EU water policy.

The EU’s Water Framework Directive (WFD) provides Member States with an important policy tool to manage water quality and quantity in our rivers, lakes, ground waters and seas. A core aspect of the WFD involves promoting water management that addresses environmental, economic and social factors within an integrated package of inclusive actions.

River basins districts are highlighted in the WFD as the most effective platforms for implementing coordinated approaches. These natural geographical and hydrological areas make more environmental sense for planning water quality measures than administrative or political boundaries, since many rivers cross regional and national frontiers.

In recognition of these facts, the WFD has established legal requirements for environmental authorities to develop River Basin Management Plans (RBMP). The deadline for these RBMPs to be in place is December 2009 and a key conference on RBMP preparation will take place in Brussels on 2-3 April 2009.

Focussing on, “today's water policy shaping future water quality”, the 2nd European Water conference is billed as an important milestone in the European debate on the preparation of the RBMPs. The conference aims to draw maximum attention to the RBMPs by encouraging active involvement of citizens and stakeholders. Core concepts covered during the two day programme include:

  • Public participation in the RBMP process;
  • Agriculture’s contribution to good water management;
  • Sustainable modifications to watercourses;
  • Getting price signals right to facilitate sustainable water use; and
  • Management of European watercourses in the view of climate change impacts.

LIFE and River Basin Management Plans

(photo:LIFE99 ENV/DK/000619) (photo:LIFE99 ENV/DK/000619)

A wide range of different LIFE projects have been actively involved in water management issues that support the objectives of RBMPs. These include the following selection of LIFE Environment, LIFE Nature and LIFE TCY projects:

  • LIFE02 ENV/UK/000140 successfully demonstrated innovative methods for integrated management of groundwater resources in former coal mining areas. These were collated within guidance material that has attracted interest from around the EU;
  • LIFE00 NAT/A/007053 enhanced wild river landscapes of the Tyrolean Lech by restoring free-flowing water habitats and took account of the needs for flood protection and local socio-economic conditions;
  • LIFE03 ENV/S/000601 showed how Europe’s forestry sector can contribute to the WFD objectives through techniques such as design of forest watersheds and appropriate forest management outside riparian and alluvial zones;
  • LIFE99ENV/DK/000619 developed a European Centre for River Restoration (ECRR) to promote the rehabilitation of rivers and riparian areas in Europe. The ECRR brought together 350 institutions and private individuals from Member States to share and improve knowledge about river restoration models;
  • LIFE03 NAT/A/000011 strengthened and regenerated characteristic river landscapes of the Upper River Mur, as a prerequisite for maintaining rare and endangered species of fauna and flora; and
  • LIFE06 TCY/INT/000246 supported sustainable management approaches for the Sava river basin flood plains through works that built trans-boundary cooperation capacities and designed a coherent network of biodiversity buffer zones and ecological corridors.

Further information about LIFE projects’ links with the aims and objectives of RBMPs can be found in the brochure LIFE and Europe’s rivers, which features various examples of LIFE actions supporting integrated river basin management.


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