Managing water according to river basins : Information management, institutional arrangements and strategic policy support - with focus on the EU Water Framework Directive

Abstract: Today, there is a general notion that water resources are best managed according to their river basins. River basin management may be approached from a wide variety of angles. This thesis focuses on information management, institutional arrangements and strategic policy support, with special reference to the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The overall objective is to examine strategies, possibilities and hindrances for river basin management, with the ultimate goal of identifying key aspects to be considered - and prioritised - for “successful” European water management and WFD implementation. An assessment of the information management of three transboundary water regimes in Europe showed that a technical/scientific paradigm ap-pears to dominate in river basin accords. This is visible, for example, in the data collection, which is dominated by state and environmental impact information, and the use of passive channels for communicating with stakeholders and other interest groups. The studies addressing institutional arrangements for river basin management according to the WFD showed that the implementa-tion level of the directive is relatively low – both at national and international levels. For instance, competent authorities have not been established (strictly) according to the borders of the estab-lished River Basin District (RBDs). Further, in international RBDs, the ambitions and plans for cooperation vary considerably. Despite the general low implementation level, steps have still been taken in the “direction” of river basin management. At the national level, all examined countries have established RBDs according to river basins, and at the international level, joint river basin management plans will probably be coordinated for a majority of river basins shared by EU Member States. However, the same pattern could not be discerned for river basins extending outside the borders of the EU. In order to support strategic policy making on issues related to the implementation of the WFD, two assessments were made, one addressing international co-operation and water quality in the Baltic Sea Region, and one encompassing rankings of all the newly established RBDs based on a number of identical indicators. Although there is a need to refine these assessments, they may be regarded as simple – but yet robust – models for bench-marking.