Environmental streamflow assessment
Assessments to identify the streamflows or water resources required to ensure good status of water bodies and ecosystem services, and the development of implementation strategies.
As reported by EU countries under article 17 of the Habitats Directive, the conservation status of freshwater species of European Community interest is generally unfavourable. Over-abstraction is causing low river flows, lowered groundwater levels and the drying-up of wetlands. In many locations, water demand often exceeds availability, and the need for adequate water supplies to service vulnerable ecosystems is often neglected. In many cases exploitation of water resources in Europe has led to significant degradation of freshwater biodiversity.
To meet the needs of a resource efficient future, sustain human and economic development and maintain the essential functions and services of our water-related ecosystems, an integrated approach to water resource management is needed. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) establishes a new integrated approach to the protection, improvement and sustainable use of Europe's rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater.
The quantity, quality and timing of water flows required to sustain ecosystems and the services they provide are together called environmental flows. From this perspective environmental flows appear as an important mechanism to protect and enhance the status of aquatic ecosystems and promote a sustainable water use, thus contributing to the achievement of EU water policy goals.
While there is significant current dynamism around defining and implementing environmental flows across the EU, an understanding of its true scope and potential in the context of the WFD still holds many uncertainties. and requires innovative approaches for its assessments and implementation strategy and practice.