Facing Water Challenges in the Po River Basin, Italy:A WWDR3 Case Study

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Synopsis

Although national regulations for water use and protection of the environment and water resources are in place, their local implementation and enforcement are generally insufficient. This poses many risks for the Po River basin, which generates nearly 40% of national GDP through intensive industry and other economic activities.

Context

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

The Po River Basin, Italy, Western Europe, Europe & CIS

Stakeholders

Contacts

Contents

Background and Significance

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions

Source:WWDR3
Quality and Quantity Issues

The Po River is subject to extensive regulation. In some stretches, its flow is reduced to a trickle during the months of high consumption. The deficit in water availability creates tension among users and aggravates quality-related problems. However, in spite of these water quantity and quality issues, there are no national or regional plans for reducing high water consumption in agriculture. Although technological improvements have been introduced, low efficiency irrigation methods are still widely used, particularly in rice farming (Zucaro and Pontrandolfi, 2005).


Pollution

Surface and groundwater quality is affected by industrial, agricultural and household pollutants. Excessive organic content in surface water causes eutrophication in rivers with low flow rates and in lakes. Although a network of wastewater treatment facilities has stopped further degradation of water quality, it has not been sufficient to reverse the process. Groundwater resources continue to contain high concentrations of nitrates due to fertilizer use in agriculture, while excessive exploitation has caused salt intrusion into coastal aquifers and, in some places, ground subsidence.


Disconnect between planning and implementation

For the most part, these problems stem from the current management approach in the Po River basin. Although only the Po River Basin Authority is responsible for basinwide planning, other institutions (regions, provinces, city councils, etc.) are in charge of implementing the authority’s plans. Their actions, however, have been fragmented and mainly focused on local interests (WWF, 2003). At national level, water issues are still regulated mostly by Legislative Decree 152 (1999), which delegates government responsibilities to regions. Each region has the right to make its own laws, and shares the responsibility for local implementation with the provinces (subunits of the regions). The 2006 decree incorporating the [[European Union Water Framework Directive]] has yet to be implemented.


Overall, regulations for water use and for protection of the environment and water resources are in place, but implementation is weak and enforcement is generally lacking.


The Po River basin is a strategic region for the Italian economy, with significant agriculture, industry and tourism sectors, employing 42% of the national workforce and generating 38% of the national GDP. However, the high level of regional development has put heavy pressure on water resources and led to degradation of surface and groundwater quality. Increasing efficiency in agriculture is an issue that still needs to be addressed. Although policy tools for managing and safeguarding water resources are in place at national level, there are problems with the implementation and enforcement of rules and regulations at regional level. Installing a legal framework for application of the EU Water Framework Directive, and making greater efforts to develop a basinwide vision agreed by all stakeholders, are among available options for safeguarding the resources of the Po River basin for future generations.

Source:WWDR3

Results and Impact

Lessons for Replication

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

References

See also

Associazione Nazionale delle bonifiche, delle irrigazioni e dei miglioramenti (ANBI). 1992. L’uso irriguo delle acquae. Rome, ANBI. Bazzani, G., Di Pasquale, S., Gallerani, V. and Viaggi, D. 2002. Water Policy and the Sustainability of Irrigated Systems in Italy. St. Paul, Minn., Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy (CIFAP). www.ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/14401/1/wp02-10.pdf (CIFAP Working Paper WP02-10, accessed November 2008.)


Biancotti, A. and Motta, L. 2000. L’evoluzione recente ed attuale dei ghiacciai italiani. Atti conv. Su: L’evoluzione del clima in epoca storica. Società Italiana di Geofisica, Roma, 5–6 December. CABRI-Volga. No date. The Po Basin Water Board, Italy: Case Study. http://cabri-volga.org/DOC/D3-CaseStudies/CaseStudyPoBasin.doc (Accessed December 2008.) Istat. 2001. 14° Censimento della popolazione e delle abitazioni 2001. http://www.istat.it/censimenti/popolazione (Accessed December 2008.)


Zucaro, R. and Pontrandolfi, A. 2005. Italian Policy Framework for Water in Agriculture. Presented at OECD Workshop on Agriculture and Water: Sustainability, Markets and Policies, 14–18 November, Adelaide and Barmera, South Australia. www.oecd.org/secure/docDocument/0,2827,en_21571361_34281952_ 35584805_1_1_1_1,00.doc (Accessed November 2008.) Po River Basin Authority. Forthcoming. Po River Basin Case Study. (Draft.)


Caracciolo, R. 2007. Presentation at National Conference on Climatic Changes, Rome, 12–13 September.


Comitato Glaciologico Italiano (CGI). 2006. http://www.disat.unimib.it/comiglacio/comitatoglaciologico.htm (Accessed December 2008.) Tibaldi, S., Agnetti, A. Alessandrini, C. Cacciamani, C. Pavan, V. Pecora, S. Tomozeiu, R. and Zenoni, E. Unpublished. Data presented at the conference Il cambiamento climatico nel bacino del Po: variabilità e trend (climatic changes in the Po River basin: variability and trends), Parma, Italy, 16 July 2007.


WWF. 2003. WWF Water and Wetland Index: Critical Issues in Water Policy across Europe. Results overview for the Po River Basin (Italy). http://assets.panda.org/downloads/wwipoitaly.pdf (Accessed November 2008.)

External Resources

The United Nations World Water Development Report 3

Attachments

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