On the 22nd and 23rd of November 2006 SedNet held a round-table discussion in Venice, Italy, entitled “Sediment Management – an Essential Part of River Basin Management Plans”. The full report can be downloaded from this website. You can also order copies of the report from the SedNet Secretariat.

Sediment is an essential, integral and dynamic part of our river basins. Where human activities interfere with sediment quantity or quality, sediment management becomes necessary. One of SedNet’s main recommendations is to integrate sustainable sediment management into the European Water Framework Directive related policy, legislation, and implementation process. This is to achieve good ecological status, or potential, and at the same time to support the well being of the European economy.

Central to the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) are River Basin Management Plans, which have to be produced and published by 2009. Until now sediment related issues have played a minor role in the Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) process. SedNet aims at providing scientific and user oriented input into the WFD implementation phase.

On the basis of this background, SedNet organised a 2-day Round Table Discussion (RT) under the title “Sediment management – an essential element of River Basin Management Plans”. The objective was to derive generic and specific recommendations for sediment management based on experiences in selected key river basins taking into account legal requirements, needs of users and scientific advice.

The Round Table Discussion brought together delegates from European river commissions, user groups, and scientists. The river basins represented were the Danube, Douro, Elbe, Humber and Rhine. Some of the uses discussed were aggregate dredging for the construction industry; agricultural use of grassland in floodplains; dredging for navigation purposes; drinking water supply; hydropower generation; etc.

The participants concluded that sediment management is an issue in all 5 river basins. Each river basin has specific natural characteristics, uses, history, challenges. It became evident that until now the WFD thinking is very ‘fluvial’.
Sediment quantity and quality issues are closely interrelated and can not be separated. Sediment management in terms of quality and quantity should receive due attention in River Basin Management Plans. To develop such a plan can be challenging taking into consideration the requirements of different European and national legislation. Also EU Policies may create conflicting ambitions.
An adaptive management approach is required; there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, it has to be tailor-made to the specific situation. Estuaries are different from rivers and require adequate attention. It is important to make use of experience from other river basins and to develop common basic approaches.
There is a need for wide recognition that the current “at risk” classification within the WFD is a screening level, which should trigger spatial discrimination, further study of effects and tests of the significance of impacts. This requires an integrated thinking about rivers and transitional waters.
Also future research will be necessary. There is a need to collate available data to identify knowledge gaps and enhance understanding, linking sediment management to environmental and climate change issues.
The Round Table concluded that achieving good ecological status requires a proper attention to sediment issues, with an awareness of natural variation and differences between river basins.

The outcome of the Round Table will be used to inform River Basin Managers, key players and users, and the European Commission for the further implementation process of the WFD.

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