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Pilot River Basins : testing the implementation of the WFD

Since the start of the Common Implementation strategy Pilot River Basins have played an important role in the development of Guidance documents and other policy documents, by testing the implementation.

The main objective of the first phase (2002-2004) was to test and report on coherence amongst the different Guidance Documents (GDs), leading to the long-term development of River Basin Management Plans and preparation of Programs of Measures. The main deliverable of Phase I was the PRB Outcome Report, on the testing of WFD Guidance Documents.

In the second phase (2005-2006), PRB activities were embedded in each of the Working Groups (WG) designated under the CIS work program 2005-2006, rather than being a separate activity. The report of Phase II activities is now also available to download here. This report includes experiences shared by the Pilot River Basins on different aspects of implementation of the WFD, such as reporting,  chemical pollution, agriculture  and river basin management planning from a national as well as international perspective.

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More information on the testing of the implementation process on the Platform of Information Exchange (PIE) of the Joint Research Centre .

Pilot River Basins - Agriculture

Phase 2005-2006

Within the work programme of the WFD CIS the link between agriculture and water resources was identified as one of the highest priorities. It was considered important to discuss how the Common Agricultural Policy can contribute to the achievements of the WFD objectives and to provide guidance on how the authorities working on the WFD and the CAP can cooperate more closely. In support to the Strategic Steering Group on Agriculture, a group of 9 PRBs, coordinated by the JRC, participated in Phase II (05-06) working specifically on the pressures from agriculture on water and related measures.

The main outcomes of the PRB-Agriculture and WFD exercise are available in the final report of the group (pdf ~15Mb).

Environmental topics, on which the agricultural sector can contribute enormously towards reaching WFD objectives, have been confirmed and ranked. Practical case studies were worked out and documented. The analyses improved knowledge on options for setting targets and objectives for mitigation of pressures from agriculture. Based on technical analysis of causes/effects between agriculture and water, measures for improvement could be designed and tested. A first open-ended Catalogue of Measures has been developed and made available.

The PRB exercise taught that increased networking is a prerequisite to keep on inspiring each other for this crucial task. More sharing of experience is needed and can be better achieved on location. Only such active exchange can catalyze and facilitate the construction of cost-effective solutions by all EU RBs. A phase III for the PRB-Agriculture and WFD is now being discussed and planned.

Phase 2008-2009

Due to upcoming deadlines in WFD implementation, the Pilot River Basins network on agricultural issues entered into a new phase in January 2008 with the main purpose of information exchange during the ongoing preparation of the river basin management plans (RBMP) and the programme of measures. The work programme was divided into three main tasks:

1. Networking activity through a series of workshops (four in two years + a final meeting held in April 2010) scheduled according to the WFD implementation steps. (Presentations and workshop documentation are available on the PRB-AGRI web platform)

2. The refinement of the catalogue of measures commissioned by the European Commission to help the Member States in the implementation of the WFD in the field of Agriculture. The PRB-AGRI network was invited to provide information on case studies, costs, effectiveness and benefits of the measures.

3. The development of a tool to ensure a rapid exchange of information. A web platform  was launched in October 2008 to simplify members’ involvement. Furthermore, in order to enhance the dissemination of the network’s results, a free access section was opened in September 2009.

Eleven countries have been involved in this phase:

A final report presents PRB-AGRI members’ contributions (articles) on four specific topics and the main conclusions of the related workshops. The topics are (i) Effectiveness and acceptance of measures; (ii) Public Participation and involvement of farmers; (iii) Monitoring and evaluation of measures and (iv) Impact of climate change on RBMP.

This network of voluntary river basins was considered by members as a useful source of inspiration where they could assess their own approach and situation while broadening up their perspectives to handle agricultural issues. The network has supported the Expert Group by offering feed-back from the field and ensuring technical support.

New phase (2010-2012)

In May 2010, the Water Directors of the European Union endorsed the continuation of the exercise and a new phase will be launched at the end of September 2010 (kick-off meeting). The overall objective will be to provide practical examples or good case practices in the RBMP by assessing a list of agricultural measures included in the RBMP and focusing on issues of particular interest for the WFD implementation in the agricultural sector.

Interested river basins are invited to join the River Basin Network on WFD and Agriculture in order to gain representativeness and to broaden the discussion (more information here)

Further contact: Nicolas.Rouyer@ec.europa.eu / Giovanni.bidolgio@jrc.ec.europa.eu