AQUAFIL – Networking for cleaner rivers and better water quality

The EU-funded AquaFil project addressed the issues of river pollution, drinking water quality and sustainable communities by taking a pan-European approach.

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The AquaFil project brought together a network of regions to focus on river management issues and environmental education. © Fons Jacques The AquaFil project brought together a network of regions to focus on river management issues and environmental education. © Fons Jacques

" The main objective of the AquaFil network is to facilitate the association of local participants and populations with water management – a major societal challenge in the coming decades.” "

Michal Lamblin, Project Coordinator

Around the world – and right here in Europe – water pollution is a looming challenge. Fortunately, Europe is taking a proactive approach to addressing the issue by making water management a priority through its Water Framework Directive – a comprehensive, European-wide water policy. In line with the policy, the AquaFil project brought together a network of regions to focus on river management issues and environmental education.

Specifically, the project addressed the complex issues of water management by tackling river pollution and its effects on drinking water quality and wetland conservation. What made this project stand out was its commitment to approaching water pollution from an integrated, inter-regional approach. After being founded by four members, the AquaFil European network was enlarged to include seven members from six countries: Luxembourg, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Portugal.

Critical action

The project launched by conducting in-depth studies of the unique river pollution problems found in its member countries. Initial studies looked at available equipment for treating drinking water and managing wastewater. 

From this research, it was quickly concluded that urgent action had to be taken to remedy the worst affected areas – many of which were identified as being threats to public health. The project first established technical teams in France and Luxembourg to lead the charge in transforming such safety-critical rivers as Bulgaria’s Tundja, Romania’s Mures and Portugal’s Ardila. First and foremost, interventions on local water treatment equipment were needed, along with the implementation of reliable controls. The project also identified a need for awareness-raising actions to ensure local communities were better educated about the issues.

Tools to monitor and control the state of the rivers were introduced, along with numerous best practices for sustainable development along riverbed areas. For example, the project constructed mobile laboratories in Alba Iulia (Romania) and Sliven (Bulgaria). These laboratories provided ongoing measurements of river pollution levels and also managed a pollution alert system. Likewise, the project coordinated the cleaning up of several riverbed areas. For example, in Sliven 2 000 trees were planted along the river to both control erosion and to transform what was once a garbage-filled wasteland into a green area for people to enjoy.

Community outreach

In addition to the ongoing monitoring efforts, the project worked directly with local populations, in coordination with national environmental ministries, to both educate and address the far-reaching effects of river pollution. The objective was to establish diagnostic approaches to river management in each of the effected communities. In Sliven, for instance, project partners ran practical training sessions for environmental technicians from the various municipalities located along the Tundja River about implementing proven solutions.

The project also targeted the general community and, in particular, school children. Educational programmes included a fun water-themed game, and relevant training materials were distributed to local teachers and educational organisations. The programmes were uniquely adapted to each location in order to strengthen the connection between the problem of river pollution and its direct impact on that particular community. In addition, Water Resource Centres were established, which were charged with developing and implementing common actions, organising community activities on the theme of river pollution and sustainability, and serving as a hub for all information relating to the project’s core objectives.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “AquaFil – Aquafil Network” is EUR 2 248 505, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 929 852 through the Operational Programme INTERREG III C - West Zone for the 2003-2006 programming period.

Draft date