Let’s make Europe a real Union on water source protection
There are four main challenges we can identify for the future of European waters:
• Overuse of fertilisers and diffuse pollution of surface & groundwater
• Barriers, structural changes, flow regulation, dredging
• Climate change challenges to quantity and quality, droughts, flood risks
• Systemic challenges which require integrated advanced policy solutions; communication & solutions on river basin level
Water protection is declared to be one of the priorities of the Commission, and the key document reporting EU approach to water source protection is the Water Framework Directive (WFD). A core part of this directive is represented by the “River Basin Management Plan”, which is defined as “a detailed account of how the objectives set for the river basin (ecological status, quantitative status, chemical status and protected area objectives) are to be reached within the timescale required”.
Briefly, the river basin management represents the initiative of a set of stakeholders including local institutions, industrial actors, associations and citizens, which promote a cooperation agreement focused preserving and protecting a specific water basin area. When structuring a river basin management plan “it is essential that all interested parties are fully involved in this discussion, and indeed in the preparation of the river basin management plan. Which leads to the final major element of the Directive, the public participation requirements”.
River basins are the natural unit of area in which to manage water resources. With intensifying water use, climate change, and land use changes, achieving sustainable water management on the river basin scale is becoming more and more challenging. The River Basin management plan could represent an effective system to preserve water streams from pollution, increasing clean water availability for citizens and fighting drought by reducing consumption.
However, Water Framework Directive, as a Directive, it is binding on objectives but leaves freedom for policy designs in the Member States. For this reason, River Basin management plans are not mandatory, but voluntary. Additionally, the way of implementing river basin agreements can be different region by region, and country by country.
In order to make all EU citizens equal before water sources, we believe that an important step must be recognized by the European Commission: turning River Basin Management into a regulation, to become national regulation for all Member States within 2030.
Additionally, all River Basin management agreements should be based on two main pillars, as a guarantee of an effective water streams protection:
• Involve smart water pollution detecting systems, able to continuously collect information in strategic points of the water stream, and allow a continuous and effective monitoring of water quality
• Recognizing the Civil liability of all those actors declaring water consumption or discharge in the water stream
Water plays a core role in most of the UN identified Sustainable Development Goals. But a common approach is needed to reach the targets. If every European water user will play the same, we could state quite proudly this Europe to be a Union
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