Research Projects and Methodology


Ongoing projects


AquaMoney (04/2006-03/2009)


 The WFD is one of the first European directives in the domain of water that explicitly mentions economics as an integral part of decision-making processes (Article 9 WFD) during the implementation.  In order to meet the main environmental objectives of the WFD, the Directives calls for the adoption and application of:  

 Under the Common Implementation Strategy, the informal European Water and Economics Working Group (WATECO) has produced a Guidance Document on “Economics and the environment” in 2002, which describes how the various elements of the economic analysis should be integrated in the policy and management cycle in order to assist decision-making when preparing the river basin management plans. However, this document remains abstract and theoretical and lacks practicality.Therefore, in 2006, the international research project AquaMoney has been launched in order to develop and test practical guidelines for the assessment of environmental and resource costs and benefits (ERCB), especially with regard to cost recovery of water services and exemptions based on disproportionate costs (Article 4 WFD). While 16 European research institutes work on developing a sound scientific base, the project consortium is supported by an Advisory board of 30 governmental and non-governmental WFD river basin policy and decision-makers, adding practical experience and knowledge through active stakeholder participation. The guidelines related to the assessment of ERCB are currently being tested in 11 representative European river basins (see figure 1); the experiences of these case studies will be used to refine the AquaMoney guidelines (published in 2006) and develop practical recommendations for policy makers who commission economic valuation studies.


Source: www.



NeWater (01/2005-12/2008)


Water resource management poses significant challenges for decision-makers, as a wide range of interconnected water issues often has to be resolved simultaneously, such as the balance of sufficient water quality and quantity, the development of mitigation and adaptation measures in case of droughts and floods, the conservation of important aquatic habitats, and the maintenance of ecological services. Moreover, these issues are closely connected to prevailing public attitudes, beliefs, and actions and differ between stakeholders as well as watersheds. Growing uncertainties, too, need to be addressed in the face of manifesting climate change and often delayed implications of management actions, demanding a more adaptive approach to river basin management.


NeWater is an interdisciplinary research project under the 6th European Framework Programme (FP6; all of the projects described have been or are part of this programme), which has been brought to life to develop new methods for integrated water resources management (IWRM), taking into account the complexity of the river basins to be managed and the difficulty to predict many factors influencing them (e.g. climate change, socio-economic developments). Thus, the main objective of NeWater is the transition from the currently prevailing regimes of river basin water management into more integrated, adaptive approaches that cope with growing uncertainty. This necessitates new management approaches that are flexible and responsive in nature and reflect the socio-economic, environmental and technological setting of a river basin. The project aims at analyzing key elements of current water management regimes (e.g. governance in water management, sectoral integration, information management, vulnerability, stakeholder participation) and their transformation to adaptive IWRM.




IWRM-NET (01/2006-12/2010)


IWRM-NET, currently consisting of 18 research programme managers from institutes across Europe working on IWRM, aims to implement new research activities at the national and regional levels related to Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) with a focus on the Water Framework Directive. This research network has been created to address the current and upcoming needs for further research induced by the WFD. As of the year 2000 (the adoption of the WFD), water managers across Europe are faced with entirely new approaches and operational modes, which triggered the complete renewal of research demand. Over the past years, numerous projects have been financed by national and local authorities (e.g. basin organization) and applied research programmes are being developed. However, the outcomes of these projects are not always published or communicated in a way that allows easy access and understanding by those in charge of policy-making or implementation. Intended as an information exchange platform, IWRM-NET was created to arrive at more thorough and complete picture of the European knowledge base and ongoing efforts in the field of IWRM.





Past projects  




CAP & WFD (04/2005-06/2006)


One of the most important environmental issues related to non-point sources of water pollution are agricultural activities. This has been recognized by the Working Groups of the CIS, which analyzed the linkages between agriculture and water resources in several major pilot river basins, highlighting the potential for improvement in the agricultural sector (see CIS and Pilot River Basins). With recent changes to both the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Water Framework Directive (WFD) – often quoted as the two most influential policies in the area of environmental issues – it was realized that there might be substantial synergies in combining the efforts of both policies in order to meet environmental targets. This could be first and foremost achieved through cooperation among authorities responsible for rural development planning and river basin management, which have until recently been developed and implemented separately.


Within this sixth Framework Programme project, two research institutes have been have been asked to analyze the legal and organisational interlinkages between both policies in order to search for future synergies while implementing, planning, financing and controlling the various requirements of the WFD and the CAP. In the course of this project, several background notes and policy briefs have been developed and presented at a conference for stakeholders and policy makers in 2006, covering issues such as incentive water pricing and cost recovery in the WFD and the cooperation and participation at the interface of EU Agricultural and Water Policies.


The overall aim of this project – “Water Framework Directive meets Common Agricultural Policy-Opportunities for the Future (WFD & CAP)” - was to review the implementation of the legal requirements of both policies in order to identify implementation shortcomings between the objectives and the actual outcomes of both CAP and WFD, and the possibilities for enhanced implementation and cooperation at all levels of European government.

Harmoni-CA (2002-2007)


The Water Framework Directive provides a European policy basis for water management and the elaboration in river basins and prescribes - as a fundamental milestone - the development of river basin management plans. The development of these plans increasingly needs high quality computer based tools (ICT tools), including tools for socio-economic analysis and stakeholder participation. Though many tools have been developed, there is no clear and complete overview on what is available and which tools to use in which situations. Harmoni-CA has established a forum for communication and discussion concerning the use and development of all tools relevant to the implementation at the WFD. In six work packages key aspects of integrated modelling were analyzed in close collaboration with the modelling community, the policy makers and the users.




HarmoniCOP (2002-2005)


Stakeholder and public participation presents one of the core components of the WFD and a prerequisite for successfully implementing the directive. However, the scientific knowledge base regarding understanding and design of multi-scale stakeholder and public participation processes of social learning is fragmented. The presence of a huge gap between outcomes of integrated models and river basin management practice has been recognized by water managers since many years; however, there has been little success in bridging this gap until recently. Too often information has been seen as an objective input into decision-making, ignoring issues such as uncertainty and implicit policy choices. Rarely was - and still is - information and are information tools seen as a means to promote and inform discussions between stakeholders and thus foster social learning. An improved understanding of processes of social learning is a prerequisite to implement novel management strategies and to bridge the science-policy gap.


The aim of the HarmoniCOP project was to increase the understanding of participatory river basin management planning (RBMP) in Europe. RBMP is the integrated cross-sectoral planning and management of river basins - if necessary across political and administrative borders. The project's objective was to generate practical information about participation processes in river basin management and to support the implementation of the public participation provisions of the European Water Framework Directive, as a succesful implementation of the WFD can only be achieved through stakeholder participation.

The handbook on public participation has been the major outcome of the HarmoniCOP-project and provides a basis for the development of improved integrated models and decision support tools. Users are developers of integrated management models and decision support tools in both academia and business, river basin management authorities and consortia who find guidance on how to design a stakeholder process for developing a river basin management plan. This supports the implementation of the public participation provisions of the Water Framework Directive.