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Is IWRM achievable in practice? Attempts to break disciplinary and sectoral walls through a science-policy interfacing framework in the context of the EU Water Framework Directive

Quevauviller, Philippe
Irrigation and drainage systems 2010 v.24 no.3-4 pp. 177-189
European Union, climate change, decision making, groundwater, industry, issues and policy, pollution, research projects, scientists, society, stakeholders, water management
The word ‘integrated' is prone to different interpretations in relation to various disciplines and sectors. When approaching operational water management, one would dream that integration would encompass effective links between scientific disciplines and technical features, with a good knowledge of interactions among different environmental compartments (land/water, terrestrial/coastal, surface/groundwater etc.), of pollution pathways, of various pressures and impacts (including from climate change) etc. The world of management effectively involves many different actors, representing different economic sectors (e.g. agriculture, industry), the civil society, stakeholder organisations, including the representation of citizens, and it is often (wrongly) thought that any kind of decision-making is carried out in an agreed and harmonious way. The theory is at least paved through IWRM principles as they are conceived within the framework of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), so we might say that we have actually no choice but to make it work!! But what is the reality in practice? The difficulty is to consider mandatory policy obligations on the one side, technical feasibility and scientific knowledge on the other side, and reflect whether and how these can be properly interfaced. This has been the subject of dynamic discussions within the past 6 years in the framework of EU-funded research projects aiming to support policy WFD developments and implementation. One of the key conclusions of these discussions among scientists, policy-makers and stakeholders underlined the need to develop a conceptual framework for a science-policy interface related to water, which would enable to gather various initiatives and knowledge. This paper discusses on-going developments in this field with an European perspective.