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383 Public Participation and Water Management in the European Union: Experiences and Lessons Learned Lucia De Stefano and Guido Schmidt Introduction Public participation (PP) has been defined as “a process where individuals, groups and organizations choose to take an active role in making decisions that affect them” (Reed 2008) or as “allowing people to influence the outcome of plans and working processes” (CIS 2003) or, even more generically, as “the expectation that citizens have a voice in policy choices” (Bishop and Davis 2002). Regardless of the definition one uses, public participation increases the unavoidable uncertainty associated with any public decision-making process, but it also contributes to managing it. Indeed, contributions from the public and stakeholders, if truly taken into account, may lead to unexplored paths that could not be envisioned at the beginning of the participatory process (Arentsen et al. 2000; Newig et al. 2005).At the same time, public participation has been often been seen as a means to reduce uncertainty related to data availability and to the response of the society to particular public policies (Newig et al. 2005; Reed 2008; Kastens et al. 2007; Zorrilla et al. 2010). In particular, Newig et al. (2005) highlight that public participation can be an effective means to: a) profit from local knowledge; b) gain insight into the social system; c) profit from information about possible acceptance of alternatives; and d) mediate interest and goals.All this can contribute to formulate better informed decisions and more easily implemented solutions. In the European Union (EU), its twenty-seven member states are currently in the midst of a historic restructuring of their water planning processes under the legal umbrella of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) (European Council 2000). The stated objective of this profound reform of the water management paradigm is the achievement of a significant improvement of the chemical and ecological/qualitative status of all surface, coastal, and groundwater bodies between 2015 and 2027 (Barreira 2006). The EU Water Framework Directive is based on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) principles and stresses the need for a holistic approach that takes into account economic, environmental, and ethical considerations in river basin water management (Rault and Jeffrey 2008; EC 2000; CIS 2003). In terms of ethical considerations, the WFD requires member states to base their actions on public information, consultation, and active involvement; as well as on the 384 Lucia De Stefano & Guido Schmidt precautionary principle,the principle of subsidiary,and the principle of transparency (Rault and Jeffrey 2008).Among these principles, public participation stands out as key to ensure the success of theWFD:“The success of this Directive relies on close cooperation and coherent action at [European] Community, Member State and local level as well as on information, consultation and involvement of the public, including users” (EC 2000, Preamble). A key milestone in the WFD planning process is the approval by the end of 2009 of new River Basin District Management Plans (RBMPs) for 215 River Basin Districts (RBDs) out of which 133 are international (Figure 1).“River Basin District” is the area of land and sea, made up of one or more neighboring river basins together with their associated groundwaters and coastal waters, as identified under article 3 (1) of theWFD as the main unit for management of river basins (EC 2000,Art. 1).The RBMPs should be the result of intense interactions among the different governmental and nongovernmental actors having a stake in the RBDs. In international basins the planning challenge is especially daunting. Indeed, if a river basin extends across international boundaries the directive specifically requires it to be assigned to an international RBD. When the international RBD covers EU territory only, member states should coordinate to produce a single RBMP. If the basin extends beyond the territories of the EU, the directive encourages member states to establish cooperation with nonmember states,“with the aim of 0 400 800 1,200 1,600 Kilometers WISE River Basin Districts (RBDs) National RBDs International RBDs Outside Data Coverage Figure 1. River Basin Districts for the EUWater Framework Directive management plans. Public Participation and Water Management in the European Union 385 achieving the objectives of this Directive throughout the river basin district” (EC 2000,Art. 3). In international basins, the drafting of RBMPs should result not only from official interactions between countries but also from participatory processes occurring within the riparian basins and, ideally, across the borders (Keessen et al. 2008). More than eight years have passed since the approval of the...


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