4.4 How to collaborate in river basins?

Rivers do not respect manmade borders: river basins like the Danube and Rhine run through several countries and regions. Flood management measures such as the construction of flood defences or water retention upstream may influence the flood risk downstream. Floods starting in one area may lead to floods in other areas as well. This may lead to conflicts of interest between ‘neighbours’ in a river basin. It calls for coordination and collaboration.

In the STAR-FLOOD project we encountered various good practices in trans-boundary coordination and collaboration. The most striking example are the river contracts in Wallonia, as described below. Another example was the collaboration between Sweden and Finland in the implementation of the Floods Directive in the Haparanda basin (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 3.5, see §8.2.1).

For more tools for collaboration and public participation in water management we refer to the Harmonicop handbook[1].

4.4.1 River contracts in Wallonia: Belgium




To increase coordination at sub-basin level and to enhance community resilience, Wallonia introduced the ‘river contracts’. River contracts are meant to conciliate the different functions and uses of the river, river banks and water resources. These are regional negotiation platforms in which projects are discussed between public and private actors. The river contracts aim to remedy the high fragmentation between authorities involved in flood risk management and are an important driving force for community resilience as they facilitate communication between citizens and water managers.

The precise role of the river contracts varies depending on the basin. To establish a river contract the members have to agree on 3-year action programmes. In some cases the river contract takes a very proactive role in flood management. For example, in the Senne basin the river contract cooperates with local water managers and advises on the prioritisation of actions based on local knowledge.

The river contracts are non-governmental, non-profit organisations, which guarantees their independency and neutrality. They are organised around local negotiation platforms that are composed of representatives from municipalities, provinces, regional administration and non-governmental organisations. Each river contract is equipped with a permanent staff of about 3 to 6 people. The development of river contracts occurs bottom-up; the initiative is mostly taken by the municipality or province authority. Membership by stakeholders involved is voluntary. The Walloon Region approves the river contract’s action programme and supports it financially. Apart from non-governmental organisations, every participating stakeholder contributes funding as well. For every Euro spent, the Walloon government adds 2.33 Euro.

The river contracts are structured around two general assembly’s a year, an administration board to prepare the general assembly, a project coordinator and working groups (specific themes or problems). There is technical assistance from the ministerial departments.

At the time of writing, there are 13 river contracts in Wallonia with 54 fulltime equivalents of staff and a budget of 2.6 million Euro. They cover 92% of the Walloon area and include 232 out of 262 municipalities. The river contracts are involved in a total of 8000 projects (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable3.4, see §8.2.1).

[1] Harmonicop handbook: http://www.harmonicop.uni-osnabrueck.de/handbook.php