Regional efforts to restore water quality

Regional efforts to restore water quality

Joint cooperation under the EU Strategy for the Danube Region is helping to find common solutions to reduce the negative effect of pressures in the region and protect the waters of the Danube River Basin.

© Ivanow

© Ivanow

Across the region, 81 million people rely on the waters of the Danube and its tributaries. Such an important shared resource requires shared responsibility, and the countries of the Danube River Basin are working together to protect the river under the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR).

TThe EUSDR addresses the common challenges of the region – encompassing political, social, cultural and economic issues, while balancing concerns for the environment and water quality. One of the 11 priorities of the strategy aims to “restore and maintain the quality of waters” along the Danube River. This priority area (Priority Area 4, quality of waters) is coordinated by Hungary and Slovakia, with management shared by the General Directorate for Water Management and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, together with the Water Section of the Ministry of Environment and the Water Research Institute of the Slovak Republic.

The activities’ list (workplan) of the priority area were formulated in a way that also includes tasks, which are already carried out in the frame of the ICPDR and the International Sava River Basin Commission. For example the development of the river basin management plans and flood management plans in line with the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive and Flood Directive and activities according to the objectives of the Danube River Protection Convention and Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin (FASRB) are led by the ICPDR and the International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC). To coordinate the joint activities under the EUSDR, the ICPDR and the priority area 4 on water quality (as well as priority area 5 on environmental risks) adopted a Joint Paper on Cooperation and Synergy for EUSDR Implementation in 2014.

Identifying problems and solutions. Four significant water management issues were identified as challenges to achieving good quality of waters in the Danube River Basin: organic and nutrient pollution, hazardous substances and hydromorphological alterations. Measures to reduce the negative effects of these pressures are included in river basin management plans for the region.

The Second Danube River Basin Management Plan will be completed this year, and the Sava River Basin Management Plan and the Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan have been prepared for those sub-basins. To implement the measures
outlined in these plans, the EUSDR encourages engaging supporting partners such as action leaders, observers, contributors or project partners to establish networks and platforms. The quality of waters priority area in particular aims to draw on science and innovation to find efficient and novel solutions for gaps and bottlenecks in the implementation of the work plan as well as to coordinate cross-cutting measures with other priority areas.

Focusing on solutions. The quality of waters priority area plays an important role in aligning the development of project proposals with the funding process, and several studies are currently under way to find joint solutions to the challenges in the region. Two studies look at the situation of waste in small, rural settlements. The first study looks at the local relevance of legal provisions on specific waste management activities, as well as the role of municipality councils and the lowest level administrative bodies in regulating, organising and managing local waste management activities. A second study looks at alternative collection and treatment of wastewater, concentrating on the levels of wastewater treatment facilities in small, local settlements, on control by authorities of local wastewater treatment activities and on the kind of legal tools they use.

Further studies are investigating legislation at the appropriate level to limit the presence of phosphates in detergents as well as implementing an early warning system in the Tisza Sub-basin to detect pollution with a transboundary impact. In addition, the priority area, together with the ICPDR, is currently facilitating the development of project proposals for two issues that have specific importance from the water quality priority area point of view: sediment at the Danube Basin level, and a separate project proposal for Tisza River Sub-basin issues. All of these studies and projects will be further developed throughout the next two years, focusing on relevant activities and policies in non- EU countries.

Building transboundary cooperation. In addition to developing and facilitating these projects, the quality of waters priority area emphasis strengthening sub-basin cooperation. The national Tisza Office was established in Szolnok, Hungary, in November 2014, supported by the Hungarian Danube Region Strategy Ministerial Commissioner as well. In addition to national tasks related to the sub-basin, the Tisza Office will support the ICPDR Tisza Group activities.

One of the first activities organised by the national Tisza Office was the 21st Tisza Group meeting held in Szolnok, Hungary, 26-27 November. At this meeting, which was facilitated by the EUSDR quality of waters priority area, the ICPDR Tisza Group agreed to jointly develop an update of the Tisza Analysis Report as well as the Second Integrated Tisza Basin Management Plan.

More information about these activities and the EUSDR are available on the new web platform of the quality of waters priority area at: www.danubewaterquality.eu.

Diana Heilmann is a member of the Hungarian EUSDR Water Quality priority area.
Andrea Vranovska is PAC4 SK assistant and the Head of Department of Programmers and Concepts at the Water Research Institute, Bratislava, Slovakia.

Next: ICPDR Presidency 2015 – finding basin-wide harmony through cooperation

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