Working on healthy rivers and streams in REFORM

The EU REFORM project is making a contribution to the healthy ecological condition of rivers and streams in Europe. Rivers and streams are essential elements of the ecosystem but increasing levels of use have had a major impact on quality over the last century. The EU introduced the Water Framework Directive in 2000. It states that the ecological quality of water throughout Europe must be good by the end of 2015. REFORM (REstoring rivers FOR effective catchment Management) was launched to help member states to structure water systems better while taking the ecosystem into account. Twenty-six research institutes and partners from fifteen countries are looking at affordable solutions for the restoration of ecosystems in streams and rivers. As a coordinator, Deltares is ensuring that the knowledge acquired will be transformed into practical tools.

Tagliamento. REFORM

Integrated approach

The ecological quality of rivers and streams depends on many factors. The form, course and structure of many rivers and streams have undergone extensive changes over time, for example to prevent flooding, to generate electricity, or to help shipping or agriculture. These changes – such as canalisation, level management and the construction of barriers such as locks – conflict with ecological quality. At REFORM, we look at how a range of policy areas can be integrated to establish the best approach. Eco-engineering plays a major role here. We look at how we can create space for natural processes again, while taking the socio-economic context into account. This may involve, for example, removing bank protection in canalised streams, or exposing the old course.

Throughout Europe

The scope of REFORM includes the whole of Europe: not just slow-moving land rivers in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland, but also rivers in the Mediterranean basin that can dry up, and Scandinavian streams and rivers, or fast flowing mountain streams in the Alps and Scotland. REFORM offers a palette of dozens of different restoration measures. The best solution is different in every situation, and is determined by the nature of the stream or river, as well as by human intervention in the catchment.

WIKI and tools freely accessible

All the knowledge from the REFORM project is freely available, for example through the REFORM website, which describes the underlying principles, progress and results of a range of sub-projects. The REFORM partners are also working on concrete tools that water managers and other agencies can use immediately. For example, a protocol has been developed for the development of river restoration projects in order to help government authorities and other organisations move through the decision-making process efficiently. By using these kinds of tools, we demonstrate the importance of stream and river restoration, and the benefits for people, the environment and the economy.