Danube Watch 3/2021 - Danube River Basin Management Plan
DANUBE RIVER BASIN
A Joint Vision For Sustainable River Basin Management In Our Shared Basin
by the ICPDR Secretariat
What is the Danube River Basin Management Plan (DRBMP)?
As we’ve covered in the recent issues of Danube Watch, the ICPDR spent much of 2021 reviewing and consulting the public on updating the Danube River Basin Management Plan (DRBMP).
Since the publication of the first DRBMP back in 2009, the ICPDR updates the plan every six years. This management plan offers rich and comprehensive information about water management issues. The 2021 update identifies the priorities for joint water resources management throughout the Danube River Basin for the coming six years. They include assessments of the current situation and measures towards the achievement of “good status” in waters of the Danube River Basin until 2027. The DRBMP received its first update in 2015 followed by its second update in 2021. The third update is due for 2027. A closely related strategic document focusing on the assessment and management of flood risk in the Danube River Basin – the DFRMP – was first published in 2015, and received its first update concurrently with the DRBMP in 2021.
Why does the ICPDR update its Management Plans?
The ICPDR acts as a joint platform for the implementation of the Danube River Protection Convention (its founding legal document) along with the European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Floods Directive (FD). These documents, along with many more such as the EU Birds and Habitats Directive and EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, call for the development of plans like these, and guide the work of the ICPDR towards achieving its three key pillars – cleaner, healthier, and safer.
Significant Water Management Issues (SWMIs)
Significant Water Management Issues, or SWMIs, are key issues that are jointly identified and reviewed as part of the river basin management cycle. SWMIs can affect the status of surface waters like rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal water bodies, and groundwater.
More specifically, the ‘Joint Program of Measures’, which is part of the Danube River Basin Management Plan (DRBMP), focuses on five Significant Water Management Issues (SWMIs) – Organic Pollution, Nutrient Pollution, Hazardous Substances Pollution, Hydromorphological Alterations, and Effects of Climate Change. These can affect the status of surface waters like rivers lakes, transitional and coastal water bodies, and groundwater bodies. Importantly, our approaches to these issues require constant renewal.
The ecological situation evolves, supranational policies continue to change, and our understanding of the possible causes of and solutions to imbalances in our shared basin’s water status is always improving. This is why it’s vital for us, the ICPDR, to review the DRBMP every six years. Additionally, we included an emboldened programme of public consultation during this update process. Along with information initiatives aimed at keeping our stakeholders and the public well-informed, such as Danube Day, this forges a deep connection between the DRBMP and the public of the Danube River Basin.
Our Vision For The Future
The key question at the heart of the DRBMP Update 2021 is essentially: what does the ICPDR hope to achieve for the future of the Danube River Basin and how will this be achieved?
In the context of the European Green Deal the recent international mood has further heightened its focus towards the future, not only for the Danube, or for Europe, but globally. Against this backdrop, the ICPDR’s many aims seem all the more relevant and urgent.
The ICPDR’s “SWMI Report” from 2019 defined several key issues to be addressed by the DRBMP Update in 2021. Previous SWMI reports in 2007 and 2013 respectively had already focused on four key issues affecting the status of the Danube River Basin’s waters:
- 1. Pollution by organic substances,
- 2. Pollution by nutrients,
- 3. Pollution by hazardous substances
- 4. and Hydromorphological alterations (also including since 2019 alteration of sediment balance). …then in 2019, the ICPDR agreed to add a new, fifth SWMI:
- 5. Effects of climate change (drought, water scarcity, extreme hydrological phenomena and other impacts).
Let’s take a brief look at the key issues at the heart of the DRBMP Update 2021.
Wastewater contaminated with organic pollution – feces and household, agricultural, or industrial waste that can be digested by microorganisms – has caused big changes to the waters of the Danube and its tributaries, creating an unfriendly and unhealthy environment for many aquatic creatures. Efforts to clean up this waste to ensure much CLEANER waters for people to enjoy and HEALTHIER ecosystems for a better life began decades ago and are still underway.
Zeroemissions of untreated wastewaters into the waters of the Danube River Basin.
When wastewater or fertilizer nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus get into surface waters, they encourage algae growth, which can block sunlight from other aquatic plants with disastrous knock-on effects. Nutrient pollution entering water bodies via so-called point sources (urban and industrial wastewater discharges), and diffuse pathways (polluted runoff, sediment input and subsurface flow from agricultural fields, urban areas and natural land) can lead to massive algae blooms. A comprehensive international effort is currently underway to enhance wastewater treatment and establish good agricultural practices that will balance the needs of water and agriculture to make water CLEANER and ecosystems HEALTHIER.
Management of nutrient emissions via point and diffuse sources in the whole Danube River Basin ensuring that neither the waters of the Danube River Basin nor the Black Sea are threatened or impacted by eutrophication.
Hazardous Substances Pollution
When we hear the word “pollution”, we think of hazardous substances, such as toxic chemicals and metals that come from industry, mining, farming, and everyday household activities, including the use of garden pesticides, cosmetics, or medicines/pharmaceuticals. Chemical pollutants can find their way into the environment through municipal wastewater, runoff from agriculture, industrial facilities, air pollution, sewer overflows, and accidental events. Depending on their concentration, they can either cause immediate toxicity or slowly accumulate in the ecosystem over time. Both pose a serious threat to human and aquatic life. Aiming for CLEANER waters that are HEALTHIER and SAFER for both people and aquatic life, new technologies, updated regulations, scientific projects and practical measures are being implemented to reduce or halt the spread of hazardous substances in the waters of the Danube River Basin.
No risk or threat to human health and the aquatic ecosystem of the waters in the Danube River Basin and Black Sea waters impacted by the discharge of hazardous substances.
Over centuries, human activities and constructions have led to fundamental changes in the physical structure and appearance of our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Along the course of the Danube and its tributaries, natural habitats have been substantially decreased which is reflected in deteriorated water status and significantly reduced biodiversity. Migration routes for fish species have been blocked by diverse barriers. Today, however, Danube countries are working hand-in-hand to make our waters a HEALTHIER home for aquatic life once again, with great benefits for society.
Danube waters managed in such a way as to eliminate the negative impacts on hydromorphology and further on to the aquatic ecosystem and its natural development and distribution.
Effects of Climate Change
Climate change is already taking its toll on rivers such as the Danube, leading to increased water scarcity, and other meteorological and hydrological extremes. In 2019, the ICPDR added “Effects of climate change (drought, water scarcity, extreme hydrological phenomena and other impacts)” to its list of SWMIs, indicating it as a top priority issue for the Danube River Basin. Whilst preventive measures will be taken to mitigate impacts of climate change, it remains essential to adapt to its unavoidable impacts and minimise the related risks, thus increasing the resilience of aquatic and water-dependent ecosystems.
To make full use of our wealth of knowledge to adapt, achieve resilience, reduce vulnerability, and ultimately sustain the inherent ecological and cultural value of the aquatic environment of the Danube River Basin.
Next: Danube Watch 3/2021 - Danube Flood Risk Management Plan