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You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Water / Water management / River basin management plans and programme of measures

River basin management plans and programme of measures

As water has a truly transboundary character, its sustainable use and protection has to be carried out on the basis of the hydrological boundaries, and if necessary via cross-institutional or even international cooperation.

Therefore, the Water Framework Directive prescribes that management activities should aim to achieve the goals of the directive within geographical areas or river basin districts (RBDs). These are based largely on surface water catchments, together with the boundaries of associated groundwater and coastal water bodies. 

For each river basin district, a river basin planning process must be set up. The first milestone of this planning process (analysis, monitoring, objective-setting and consideration of measures to maintain or improve water status) is the initial river basin management plan. This will be published in 2009. The river basin management plan will:

  • record the current status of water bodies within the river basin district;
  • set out the measures planned to meet the objectives;
  • act as the main reporting mechanism to the Commission and the public.

The whole process of river basin management planning includes the preparation of programmes of measures at basin level for achieving the environmental objectives of the Water Framework Directive cost-effectively. The planning, implementation and evaluation of the programme of measures is an iterative process that will probably include the river basin management plan of the first (2009), second (2015) or further cycles (2021, 2027).

Basic measures include control of pollution at source through the setting of emission limit values as well as through the setting of environmental quality standards. The use of economic instruments, such as water pricing, is part of the basic measures. Here, in particular, the 'polluter pays' principle should be taken into account. The directive aims to ensure that pricing policies improve the sustainable use of water resources.

The planning process together with the implementation of the programme of measures is often referred to as river basin management. These RBMPs should be made available for information and consultation by the public.

River basin management planning process

 public participation

Learn more from the Commission’s website or the respective guidance documents from the Common Implementation Strategy of the WFD.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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Phone: +45 3336 7100