River basins, lakes, floodplains and marshes often span political and administrative boundaries. This creates challenges in the management of Europe's water resources, according to a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), which recommends better integration of coordinated spatial planning and water management.
The report, 'Territorial
cohesion and water management in Europe: the spatial perspective' addresses
the basic fact that river basins and administratively distinct regions often
have different boundaries, leading to a mismatch between land planning and
water management. The centrepiece of EU water legislation, the
Water Framework Directive which is implemented through River Basin Management
Plans (RBMPs), takes this element into consideration.
However, water basin management should be more
closely integrated with spatial planning, the report argues. This would bring a
strategic focus to planning, highlighting decisions which affect water
The current situation means that costs can fall on
those who do not benefit – for example, water pollution from agriculture in one
territory that flows downstream to others. Also, benefits may go to those
outside the territory who have not paid for them. An example of this is forests
in one territory that regulate floodwaters in a different territory downstream.
Water bodies are under pressure in many parts of
Europe from multiple demands, including tourism, industry, agriculture, power,
transport and public supply. A recent
EEA reportargued that the natural world also needs water to carry out the
'ecosystem services' which underpin the European economy, such as water
purification, soil retention, and food production. By integrating basin-level
water management and spatial planning, these direct and indirect human demands
can be better weighed up.
And it's not just human interests which should be
considered. Approximately 250 species of macrophytes and 250 species of fish
live in European inland surface waters and a significant number of birds, fish
and mammals depend on wetlands for breeding or feeding. These all need
sufficient water to survive. In addition, many species also require water
bodies to be in a 'natural' state – for example many species of fish need
uninterrupted migratory routes.
31 August, 2012.