The Basin Approach in France

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Context

The Basin Approach in France

Timeframe


Status

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

Stakeholders

Contacts

Contents

Background and Significance

The Adour-Garonne Basin

Although there is a dense network of tributaries in this basin, there are no major rivers. Low rainfall in the summers results in severe low-water levels from the end of spring.


The Artois-Picardy Basin

As an area previously dominated by the coal and steel industries, both surface water and groundwater resources have been highly contaminated by various hydrocarbons and toxic metal salts. Furthermore, the abudnat water resources of the region were previously used by factories in an unsustainable fashion, which resulted in lowering the water table.


The Loire-Brittany Basin

Excessive nitrate pollution in surface and underground waters is the main problem in this basin resulting from post WW2 policies to ensure food for all and create jobs, which boosted livestock productivity and cereal production, but with adverse environmental effects.


The Rhine-Meuse Basin

The Rhine-Meuse is a transboundary basin that encompasses nine countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland). In 1986, an industrial accident in Basel, Switzerland caused approximately 20 tons of highly toxic pesticides to flow into the Rhine, which has had a devastating effect on the ecosystem.


The Rhone-Mediterranean Basin

In order to meet the energy demands of devloping industry, hydroelectric power plants (HEPP) have been established. Dmas installed generate 64% of HEPP, and also serve different purposes, such as flow regulation and water supply for drinking, irrigation, navigation and recreational activities. However, the problem is that the dams divert more than 80% of the river flow and so have a direct impact on the aquatic environment by preventing fish migration and altering the natural flow regime. It is these problems that are being addressed.


The Seine-Normandy Basin

The main challenge in this basin, which accommodates approximately 30% of France's population, is improving water quality under the strain of increasing pollutant concentrations, particularly nitrates and pesticides.

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions

The Adour-Garonne Basin

In orde to cope with the adverse effects of low-water levels from the end of spring, planning tools like strict low-water target flow (DOE, Débit Objectif d’Etiage), and low water management schemes (PGE, Plans de Gestion d’Etiage) were enforced. DOEs are the fixed flow rates at strategic points of the basin during low water periods. PGEs involve all relevant stakeholders and set the rules about how to allocate limited water resources at the basin scale and specifically in water deficit areas.


The Artois-Picardy Basin

In order to preserve water resources, groundwater abstraction and pollution charges were implemented and have been kept consistently high since the 1970s.


The Loire-Brittany Basin

To reduce nitrate pollution in surface and groundwaters, appropriate measures have been taken. These include agor-environmental measures and a nitrogen absorption prpgramme at the European level, to reduce the impact of agricultural activities on water quality. The Farm Pollution Management Programme (PMPOA, Programme de Maîtrise des Pollutions d’Origine Agricole) was also introduced at the national level to monitor pesticide and fertilizer pollution, which provides financial incentives through subsidies for the farmers to upgrade their livestock effluent management.


The Rhine-Meuse Basin

Following the devasting accident in 1986, the Rhine Action Plan (RAP) was put into effect in 1987 and completed in 2000. Within the RAP framework, a warning network with six international warning centres has been set up to notify downstream states and riverside inhabitants in case of accidents. Based on the achievements of the RAP, the Rhine 2020 Programme on Sustainable Development of the Rhine was initiated in 2001. In addition, an action plan on flood defence was adopted in 1998. Combined, they focus on flood protection, prevention and improving water quality through waste discharge control, industrial accident prevention and the ecological restoration of the Rhine.


The Rhone-Mediterranean Basin

To address the problems associated the the dams, specific action plans are being implemented that aim to increase the water flow in the bypassed sections of the river.


The Seine-Normandy Basin

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Results and Impact

France's six major river basins have different climatic, hydrological and socio-economic characteristics. Consequently, six basin agencies have been set up to address the differing challenges in each basin.

France’s great productivity in agricultural and industrial products has caused complex environmental problems, stemming from the pollution of surface and groundwater resources by agricultural, domestic and industrial wastes. Water legislation reform of 1992 laid out the principles for a balanced management of water resources with the aim of keeping the needs of humans and the environment in balance. Furthermore, the European Union Water Framework Directive has already been integrated into French law. However, finding a compromise between the needs of ecosystems and other water uses continues to be a real challenge for the six basin agencies.

Lessons for Replication

The Adour-Garonne Basin

DOEs and PGEs have had overall positive results, such as the establishment of better dialogue among stakeholders and reduced frequency of low water crises. Furthermore, the basin administration constantly provides sound advice for promoting rational water use and equipment for monitoring water abstraction. However, irrigation charges are still highly subsidized, and as a result, the revenues collected for irrigation water are still far from adequate for meeting the real cost of providing services (€3.83 million collected in 2002 versus a full cost of €107 million)


The Artois-Picardy Basin

Undoubtedly, the adoption of technical solutions, such as wastewater treatment plants, recycling of water and utilization of advanced manufacturing processes, to reduce or in some cases omit water usage has played an important role in reducing the damage caused to the basin’s water resources.


The Loire-Brittany Basin

Despite positive signs emerging in some subbasins concerning nitrate and pesticide content, the overall progress on water quality remains modest thus far. However, given that most developments have been undertaken recently and agro-environmental policy is based on voluntary participation, it will take some time to observe the real outcomes.


The Rhine-Meuse Basin

The adoption of the European Union Water Framework Directive is likely to have a positive effect on the quality of the Rhine River, as by 2015 all the rivers in EU states will be required to reach ‘good water’ status.


The Rhone-Mediterranean Basin

A reduction of eutrophication and an increase of flora and fauna diversity has occurred following the specific action plans. However, the measures taken to restore the free movement of fish have not been successful, due to a lack of monitoring and enforcement. The main lesson here is that Monitoring and Evaluation(M&E) are crucial to a project's long-term sustainability and overall success.


The Seine-Normandy Basin

Given the main overarching problem in this basin remains improving water quality under the strain of increasing pollutant concentrations, it is anticipated that despite the current action plans and high capacity wastewater treatment plants, meeting the targets required by the European Union Water Framework Directive will not be possible for many years to come.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

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The Experience at a Glance

Implementing Agency(ies)

References

See also

Additional case studies in France
  1. Rhine Case Study
  2. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Rhine River Basin

External Resources

Case Study summary

Full case study report

Attachments

 France.pdf  Francefull.pdf

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