River landscape-types in Austria

"Leitbilder" (guiding vision) for a sustainable development of river landscapes

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Department of Hydrobiology, Fisheries and Aquacultur
Institute for Water Provision, Water Ecology and Waste Management
BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna
Max Emanuelstraße 17,
A - 1180 Vienna


S. Preis, G. Haidvogl, S. Muhar, S. Schmutz, A. Strigl, S. Trimmel


Department of Hydrobiology, Fisheries and Aquacultur
Institute for Water Provision, Water Ecology and Waste Management
BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna
Max Emanuelstraße 17,
A - 1180 Wien
Tel: +43 1 47654 / 5208
Fax: +43 1 47654 / 5217
email: sabine.preis@boku.ac.at



Elaborated in the framework of the workshop-conference "Nachhaltigkeit im Management von Flusslandschaften" (Sustainability in the Management of River Landscapes) at the University of Agricultural Sciences (BOKU) on 28/29.11.2002 in Vienna

1. 1. Coordinate and harmonize the planning process at the EU level

The EU Water Framework Directive requires that the fundamental methodological steps be coordinated and harmonized at the level of the respective river basin.

  • The aim is to secure a good ecological status for all European waters. The sustainable development of river basins and river landscapes is a cornerstone in this process. The key step is to formulate visions and so-called Leitbilder based on an integrative, sustainable approach. Leitbilder are to be defined and quantified according to uniform criteria.
  • Reliable concepts for the planning process in river basin management are already available for the sustainable development of river landscapes, and first initiatives have already been taken to coordinate the individual working steps within the planning process (determination of Leitbilder and criteria, recording and evaluating the status quo, scenario development and the evaluation of measures and scenarios/cost-benefit analyses). Methods for the individual working steps are to be further developed and coordinated.
Unifying the terminology is a prerequisite for successful inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation in river basin management.

2. The principle of sustainability must be definitively anchored and actually implemented

The principle of sustainability must become an obligatory component in water management by specifying and interrelating ecological, economic and social aspects.

  • Evaluating the sustainability of river landscapes is still a nascent field. This necessitates developing and improving methods for evaluating sustainability, for example defining indicators and criteria, developing methods to integrate ecological, economic and social issues, introducing scale-oriented sustainability evaluations.

3. Define spatio-temporal levels of scale and incorporate these into water management

Planning processes must be conducted on the appropriate scales, yet the individual scales must not be viewed solely from an isolated perspective. Rather, special effort must be made to consider the mutual dependencies between the various scales (down-/upscaling).
Depending on the specific task, the study areas must not be restricted to the immediate water course but must incorporate the entire original floodplain ("potential floodplain") as well as the catchment area.
Appropriate working levels (levels of scale) include:
Working level Scale Surface area
River catchment unit (international/national) M 1:100.000 to M 1:500.000 Catchment area
River landscape M 1:25.000 to M 1:50.000 Valley area
River landscape section M 1:5.000 and more detailed Original floodplain

Beyond the spatial scales, a temporal component must also be defined. Short- and medium-term aims and measures are to be bedded in higher-level, long-term planning efforts. The long-term planning should incorporate a time horizon of at least 30 years, in the sense of a "contract between generations".

4. Clearly define the competences and cooperations at the administrative level

  • - The planning process must be conducted in a coordinated effort involving all levels of hierarchy, i.e. not only sectorally (vertically) but also transdisciplinary (horizontal) based on clearly defined areas of competence. This coordination can take place, for example, in the framework of a river basin commission. A close cooperation is to be sought with spatial planning, which is the discipline responsible for the future-oriented, overall development of the habitat.
  • Different administrative structures in neighbouring countries must be presented in a transparent manner and considered in a transboundary perspective.
  • Inter- and especially transdisciplinary work processes are new to many - this will require developing "best practise"-guidelines and making these available to all concerned parties.

5. Centrally coordinate river basins and river landscapes

In order to ensure continuity and communication in the planning process, the recommendation is to establish a central competence.

  • at the catchment scale this should lie at the administrative level and be assumed by a river basin coordinator (e.g. in Austria by the "water management planning organ"). Optimally, the work of the river basin coordinator is to be supported at the technical/scientific level by the above-mentioned river basin commission.
  • The individual river landscapes should represent functional units and practicable management units. A river landscape manager is to be appointed for them (planning office, for example).
  • The river basin coordinator coordinates the work of the individual river landscape managers at the next higher (supra-river landscape) level.

6. Make participative planning obligatory

The EU Water Framework Directive calls for participation, and this is a prerequisite for implementing the measures for sustainable development of river landscapes.

  • Beyond merely being informed, all affected parties should be actively incorporated, for example by installing river landscape fora, especially in the framework of formulating aims and Leitbilder, planning measures, and evaluating sustainability. Examples for this include river fora in Switzerland as well as water agencies and water parliaments in France.
  • A prerequisite for this is to develop and coordinate methods for participatory planning processes because successful participatory processes are based on sound methodological knowledge.

7. Establish sustainable river management in education and training

Professionally implementing an integrative water management (e.g. coordination and management functions) requires trained specialists.

  • The job profile of these professions must be defined.
  • Research programs and university curricula must be directed at and expanded to accommodate these requirements.

8. Provide funds for planning, implementation and research

In order to finance measures that preserve and restore river landscapes, directed funding efforts - comparable with those of the highly successful, EU-wide nature conservation funding program LIFE-Nature - will be necessary.

Planning and implementation
  • It is recommended to establish a water management fund geared at the river basin level; it should receive funds from both the EU and national coffers and from relevant interest and user groups.
  • Additionally, existing funding is to be examined with regard to its sustainability-promoting properties; this funding should be re-structured as necessary (e.g. agricultural and energy sectors).

As opposed to the 5th EU Framework Program, the 6th Framework Program contains only minimal provisions for funding research in the field of sustainable water management. There is a need for interdisciplinary, scientifically founded decision-making criteria in sustainable water management. This calls for nationally and internationally funded, inter- and transdisciplinary research.

  • A concerted effort is required to establish these research agendas in the European scientific community. Both EU and national funds are to be provided for this research sector based on common guidelines.
  • Defining key actions as well as establishing centers and networks of excellence in the framework of the EU-wide research programs would contribute to the continuity of international research in this field.



Susanne Muhar
Department of Hydrobiology, Fisheries and Aquacultur, Institute for Water Provision, Water Ecology and Waste Management
BOKU – University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna

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