A River Basin Management Plan for the Danube River - Weller and Liska page 2

There are a number of objectives in respect of which the quality of water is protected including general protection of the aquatic ecology, specific protection of unique and valuable habitats, protection of drinking water resources, and protection of bathing water. All these objectives must be integrated for each river basin. It is clear that the last three - special habitats, drinking water areas and bathing water - apply only to specific bodies of water (those supporting special wetlands; those identified for drinking water abstraction; those generally used as bathing areas). In contrast, ecological protection should apply to all waters: the central requirement of the Directive is that the environment be protected to a high level in its entirety (EC, 2011).  
In its Article 3, the Water Framework Directive calls for the creation of international districts for river basins that cover the territory of more than one Member State and for coordination of work in these districts. The countries of the Danube, which include both EU and non EU countries, agreed in the framework of the ICPDR to develop a river basin management plan for the entire basin according to the Directive.

The Plan

The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) is the coordinating platform to compile multilateral and basin-wide analysis on what has been termed - the roof-level.  On the basis of EU Water Framework Directive the ICPDR coordinated the preparation and compilation of this Danube River Basin Management Plan which includes both a detailed analysis of the status of Danube waters as well as the identification of the measures needed to address existing problems.
The Danube River Basin Management (DRBM) Plan and the Joint Programme of Measures – prepared as an integral part of it – therefore follow the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive and aim for the achievement of environmental objectives.
The Danube Joint Programme of Measures outlines specific actions and scenarios at the basin-wide scale and their likely outcomes by 2015 and beyond. It is firmly based on the national programme of measures of each Danube country, which shall be implemented at the latest by 2012. The Plan also indicates where the proposed measures remain insufficient to meet the WFD requirements on a basin-wide scale and proposes additional actions. It indicates where action is needed and also where further monitoring effort is required. The Plan focuses on the main transboundary problems, the Significant Water Management Issues, that can directly or indirectly affect the quality of rivers and lakes, as well as transboundary groundwater bodies. For the Danube River Basin these were identified as pollution by organic substances, pollution by nutrients, pollution by hazardous substances and hydromorphological alterations, or changes to the natural character and structure of the water body. Based on the detailed picture we now have of the Danube Basin waters, the DRBM Plan outlines visions for each issue to achieve an improved and sustainable water environment.
The Plan was presented to the Ministers responsible for water of the Danube countries at a Ministerial meeting in February 2010. Under the banner of Shared Waters – Joint Responsibilities the Ministers discussed and adopted the plan. In the Declaration of the meeting the Ministers pledged support to ensure the implementation of the plan and to work with other Ministers to ensure that water concerns are integrated into the actions of other Ministries.

The Elements of Success

The preparation of the DRBM Plan was possible because of a number of factors. First and foremost the countries of the Danube had been cooperating together in the framework of the Danube River Protection Convention since 1994. The political commitment to cooperation expressed at the time of the signing of the Convention has been realized in the work of the ICPDR since that date. All the countries of the Danube are signatories to the Convention and have active participation in the work of the commission.
The EU Water Framework Directive provides a logical scientific approach to determining the status of waters and to organising the information for political decisions. While some elements of the needed information base did not exist the overall logic of the Directive was able to be used by the countries in a cooperative way to organise the data and information that they have.
A central element of that cooperation has been focused on reliable and organised information on water quality. The countries of the region have been actively engaged in activities that are needed to ensure mutual understanding and cooperation. In particular, a yearly status of water quality has been published since 1996 based upon the Transnational Monitoring Network developed by the countries in response to the Convention. This monitoring activity provided the necessary basis for harmonised water quality assessment throughout the whole basin, which not only gave an overview of water quality trends in the basin and of loads of substances discharged into the Black Sea but it fostered achieving of compatibility between water assessment approaches in the Danube countries.
Agreed and organised data is essential in being able to generate the political will to take actions to address problems. The yearly assessment of water quality has been supplemented by periodic surveys of the status of the water and the ecological conditions of water carried out under the banner of the Joint Danube Survey. The Joint Danube Surveys provided an organised set of data for the main stem of the Danube that was comparable and agreed among the countries (Liska et al., 2008). The scientific contribution of these special monitoring exercises was immense but similarly important were the aspects of training and methodological harmonisation as well as raising public awareness.
The survey also provided the first ever comprehensive harmonised hydromorphological assessment of the Danube River that created a methodological backbone to the assessment of the hydromorphological alterations in the Plan.
A key issue in preparation of the Plan was the work of  the Danube experts towards the evaluation of pressures on the water bodies, including pollution by organic substances, nutrients and hazardous substances. A comprehensive set of emission data that enabled application of models (just to mention the most important one – MONERIS - that was applied for the assessment of diffuse pollution on a basin-wide scale (IGB-Berlin, 2011) provided the necessary data for preparation of scenarios being an essential foundation for setting the measures.
A critical element of the success of the development of the Plan was also the work performed under the River Basin Management (RBM) Group of the ICPDR and the other expert groups of the ICPDR who organised their work according to the requirements of the Directive. The RBM group was the place where the existing information came together and the members of this group saw themselves as responsible for coordinating the inputs of their country into the plan.