A River Basin Management Plan for the Danube River - Weller and Liska page 4

The DRBM Plan deals not only with surface waters but it sets a Joint Programme of Measures to achieve environmental objectives also for groundwaters. With respect to groundwater quality the preliminary findings showed that nitrate contamination is a key hindrance to achieving good chemical status. Measures regarding Significant Water Management Issues (SWMIs) for surface waters will also help to achieve good chemical status of groundwater bodies. Although it is difficult to quantify, the amount of nitrates will be reduced, primarily through the implementation of the EU Nitrates Directive and the EU UWWTD. Where it is not yet the case, an effective regulatory framework has to be put in place at the national level ensuring prohibition of direct discharge of pollutants into groundwater. Moreover, prevention of significant losses of pollutants from technical installations and prevention and/or reduction of the impact of accidental pollution incidents is needed to protect the groundwater bodies against water quality deterioration.
For groundwater bodies of basin-wide importance that show poor quantitative status, groundwater use has to be properly balanced, taking into account the conceptual models for particular groundwater bodies, and should not exceed the available groundwater resource. Where it is not yet the case, appropriate controls over the abstraction of fresh surface water and groundwater and impoundment of surface waters (including registers of water abstractions) must be put in place and also an effective policy of authorisation of abstractions must be provided.
The overall challenge of the Plan is to ensure the continued momentum that has existed in the development of the plan in the implementation phase. This is a particular challenge because the plan requires substantial financial resources to be implemented. Some quick successes are possible, however, and have already been achieved i.e. the ban of phosphates at the EU level. The monitoring data available also show that the investments made over the past twenty years in building waste water treatment plants are having positive effects on water quality, including in the Black Sea which is heavily influenced by the Danube. The existing EU funding mechanisms for agriculture and structural funds are helping in EU countries. The ICPDR has also organised a workshop with funding institutions on how to support the implementation of the plan with a particular emphasis on non-EU countries.

Critical, however, will be the integration of the needed measures into the actions of other sectors (navigation, energy, and agriculture). The good status of waters cannot be achieved if these sectors do not integrate water protection actions into their initiatives. The plan provides a logical framework for improving water quality with clearly defined goals and targets and it is hoped that the clarity of goals and targets will help not just the water sector in making decisions but guide the decisions and actions of other sectors. The implementation will require continued vigilance and a mixture of critical prodding and promotion.

Prospects for the Future

A positive boost to the chances of success of the Danube River Basin Management Plan have come from the development by the EU of the Danube Strategy. This overarching regional development policy is intended to promote a strengthening of regional development in the Danube region. Throughout 2010 public hearings and discussions have taken place related to the adoption of the Danube Strategy which is planned for mid 2011 under the Hungarian EU Presidency. Although the Strategy is an EU action it has involved and incorporated the interests of non-EU member states.
The Danube Strategy has clearly reinforced the need to have clean waters as a key basis for development in the region and the text of the Strategy and associated Action Plan acknowledges the Danube River Basin Management Plan as basis for achieving environmental protection and maintenance of good water status.
The implementation of all the actions in the Danube River Basin Management Plan are not assured by the Danube Strategy but the process of developing the Strategy has added new political support and acknowledgement to the actions outlined. The momentum for improving water management that exists will hopefully lead to further steps in creating a long-term basis for maintaining good status of Danube waters.