River basin management at the Ruhrverband

The term 'river basin management' stands for water management structured by natural catchment areas rather than administrative districts such as cities or towns. It thus refers to a limited territory where the effects of the natural water cycle become visible and can have immediate consequences.

This applies for instance to residents downstream of a pollutant discharger; to residents upstream of a transversal structure making the upper reaches of a body of water inaccessible; or to residents benefiting from a high-water retaining project.

An important prerequisite for effective river basin management is the cooperation of all the parties involved in water management, pooling their knowledge and their interests and translating them into necessary activities as part of a cooperative dialogue. This procedure allows taking advantage of synergies existing at the regional level while limiting the number of measures to a technically and legally permissible minimum.

This task is facilitated when an entire river basin is managed by one single institution because
a) the effects of water management projects or problems occurring repeatedly in the same area of responsibility can be identified immediately; and because
b) experience gained from solving those problems can be used for future projects.

In the Ruhr catchment area, the Ruhrverband has assumed this role for almost one hundred years now. Its central body for all questions regarding river basin management and, in particular, the European Water Framework Directive is the specialist team on river basin management. One of its tasks is to incorporate the essential features and requirements of the directive into the Ruhrverband's current work. This includes critical monitoring of the implementation process as much as evaluating the water quality based on new biological quality parameters or analysing necessary projects with a view to effectiveness and cost efficiency.