ICPR – International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine

15th Conference of the Rhine Mnisters, October 28, Basel

Prevention and Adaptation
Future challenges for sustainable water management in the Rhine catchment

The 15th Conference of Rhine Ministers on October 28, 2013 has adopted a precise schedule for restoring the continuity of the Rhine for fish migration. By 2020, salmon should again be able to access the Basel region. Further important decisions concern the handling of micro-pollutions, flood risk management and the consequences of climate change.

In the 15th Conference of Rhine Minsters, the Minsters of the states in the Rhine catchment and the representative of the European Union who had followed the invitation of the Swiss Federal Councillor, Doris Leuthard, drew a balance of past Rhine protection activities and determined the cornerstones for future activities. In their joint declaration they also underlined that water quality and the ecological situation of the Rhine have distinctly improved during the past decades, even though much remains to be done, before the good status of all waters in the Rhine catchment is achieved.

The major fields of future action are: micro-pollutants, river continuity for fish migration, flood protection and adaptation to climate change:

Micro-pollutants (e.g. pharmaceuticals, odoriferous substances, insecticides, hormones) are a new challenge. Today's normal mechanical-biological wastewater treatment plants do not or only partly eliminate micro-pollutants from wastewater. Within a  dedicated strategy, the ICPR has considered the relevant groups of substances and their input pathways. The potential most efficient measures aimed at avoiding and reducing these inputs from municipal and industrial wastewaters have been drawn up. Since this is not a problem specific for the Rhine, corresponding initiatives must be taken at European level. As far as the Rhine catchment is concerned, the ICPR will continue working on this issue.

With respect to river continuity, the President of the ICPR, Mr. André Weidenhaupt underlined: "The way has been opened for river continuity in the Rhine system until 2020. This is an important milestone for the ICPR. In the salmon and lake trout programme waters Rhine, Moselle and other tributaries river continuity has been restored at some 480 transverse structures. From 2018 on, the sluices of the Haringvliet in the Netherlands will be easier to pass. In 2015, another fish passage will be ready to operate at the Strasbourg barrage and the same year the fish pass construction will commence at Gerstheim. The conference now agreed on further steps towards restoring river continuity between Gerstheim and Basel. Thus, salmon should be able to access the Rhine tributaries in the Basel region by 2020." Among others, the Conference also decided to further enhance new innovating techniques for downstream movement at transverse structures in order to limit the loss of salmon or eel in turbines.

The extreme flood on the rivers Elbe and Danube in June 2013 again reminded the population along the Rhine of the importance of flood-related problems.
According to the ICPR balance on the implementation of the Action Plan on Floods so far, and due to numerous measures along the Rhine downstream of Basel, retention areas for up to 229 million m³ of water are available since 2010 to lower peak flows. Since 1998, more than 10 billion Euro have been invested in flood prevention, flood protection and raising public awareness in order to reduce damages to the population and goods.

The effects of the evolving climate change will require further flood risk management activities at the municipal, regional, national and international level and require the involvement of all actors. This also applies to phases of low water discharge expected to occur more often, in particular when air and water temperatures are high, which, for ecological reasons, is critical for water quality, navigation and cooling water purposes.

The Ministers' conference was pleased to take note of the fact that, in September 2013, the successful cooperation to protect the Rhine and its catchment was awarded the 1st European Riverprize.

Further information <link http: www.iksr.org>www.iksr.org
International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR)
Ben van de Wetering
Tel. +49-(0)261-94252-17
Mobile: +49 -176 -55903954
Anne Schulte-Wülwer-Leidig
Tel. +49-(0)261-94252-19
Mobile +49-171-322 65 82

Short information
As Rhine bordering countries, Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands as well as Luxembourg and the European Community co-operate within the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) on the basis of a treaty under international law. The President (at the time being Dr. André Weidenhaupt from Luxembourg) and the different ICPR fora are supported by the international staff of the permanent secretariat in Koblenz (Germany). Furthermore, the secretariat gives support to the countries in the Rhine watershed when implementing the European Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) and the European Directive on the Assessment and Management of Flood Risks (Directive 2007/60/EC). To this end, cross-border co-operation was extended to Austria, Liechtenstein and the Belgian region Wallonia. The working languages of the ICPR are German, French and Dutch. For detailed information on the ICPR please browse to the ICPR website: <link http: www.iksr.org>www.iksr.org.