A Challenge for Research and Innovation
This section sets out the priority areas for EU collaborative research and technological development (RTD) and related initiatives (scientific and technological reviews, demonstration, co-ordination, etc.) - as identified by the Task Force "Environment-Water".
These priorities are presented (Point 2) as 10 "actions lines" corresponding broadly to the main actors groups/areas-of-intervention as related to freshwater management and use. The table in Point 3 is a "revisiting" of these 10 action lines according to the four preliminary "axes" set out by the Task Force when launching the consultation process.
The content - 10 high priority "action lines" directed at the main actors groups
The Boundaries - limiting the scope, for the Action Plan to remain manageable
The Action Plan addresses most of the "burning problems" of our time in respect of the sustainable development of freshwater resources, and encompasses the whole range of research-related initiatives - from basic research to dissemination of knowledge and know-how, through technological development/adaptation, pre-normative research and the development of decision/management support tools. However, this Action Plan is not intended to cover all of the water research priorities.
First, it focuses on priority areas for EU collaborative undertaking, leaving out priority areas which would more appropriately be addressed by the private sector (typically, competitive, product/process-specific technologies whose development is primarily driven by the market forces) or by the national/regional research organisations. Second, whilst recognising the many influences freshwater management has on other compartments of the environment (soil, air, sea), these have been addressed at a rather general level, essentially through the need for incorporating existing knowledge into integrated water management models and other decision-support tools (e.g. monitoring systems). Third, the Action Plan does not explicitly address the research needs of the "in-stream" users of water (hydro-power generation, water transport, recreation). Similarly, it does not specify the priority areas for research and innovation in cleaner products and processes outside the water field (e.g. substitution of colouring agents in the textile industry; genetically engineered crops for in-built pest-resistance).
The 10 "action lines" of the preceding section result from a process of intense consultation of the different stakeholders in the development of water research and related initiatives. Priorities emerging from such a process can be presented in many different ways. The option has been to organise the prioritised actions according to the main groups of actors (areas of intervention) as related to freshwater management and use.
The table which follows is a revisiting of this Action Plan according to the four broad axes for water research and development set out by the Task Force when launching the consultation process. The table is not intended to be comprehensive in terms of the different sub-actions, but rather to provide an overview of the contribution of the prioritised activities to the four original axes, corresponding to the main concerns of EU citizens:
As shown by this table, the clustering of the actions ultimately prioritised by the Task Force according to these original axes would have resulted in some axes (notably combating pollution) being much more elaborated than others, although not being intrinsically more important. It also shows that certain technologies (e.g. aquifer recharge) and fields of activity (e.g. socio-economic research, international co-operation) should rather be seen as encompassing a variety of objectives, whilst the corresponding basic requirements in terms of research and related initiatives are coherent and therefore best considered together. Furthermore, some indirect impacts are highlighted such as that of demand reduction on both the combating of chronic deficits and the prevention (and management) of crisis situations.
The need to cluster the actions in a different way than originally proposed was already apparent when first analysing the different contributions received (see Annex 1). This was confirmed when actually drafting the Action Plan. It is expected that this table shows how the different specific fields of intervention prioritised are actually contributing to the resolution problems and goals of general concern.