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Questions for Anne-Marie Levraut

Council for the environment and sustainable development, Operational manager of the water-policy assessment

The report on the water-policy assessment was an important element during the environmental conference last September. What were the main conclusions?

Integrated management of entire hydrographic basins has proven its worth and represents a fundamental strong point that must be preserved. State intervention in the natural water cycle is fully legitimate given its EU commitments and the lack of awareness of the population concerning the issues surrounding water and aquatic environments. Better coordination of water policy with other public policies, e.g. agriculture, energy, urbanism, is required. To date, the results of water policy have been rather mixed. Some progress has been made on point-source pollution. However, we still have difficulties in dealing with nonpoint-source pollution from farms, the emerging risks of micropollutants, growing tensions during low-flow periods and alterations to river morphologies.

What do you recommend to reduce nonpoint-source pollution?

All available means must be used to induce changes in work habits and behaviour, in order to make progress toward a new agricultural model that better respects the environment. Those means include the rules governing the eco-conditionality of CAP aids, efforts to demonstrate and propagate good practices (e.g. the Ecophyto demonstration farms), and inspections on compliance with regulations. Water policy should focus on limited areas representing the greatest problems, such as the abstraction supply zones (ASZ) and basins confronted with green algae. The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) is now managed by the regions and could be reorganised to focus on the above objectives. The inspection programmes must be fully implemented and better coordination between the environmental police and CAP inspections is also required.

What measures are required to improve the ecological functioning of rivers?

There is a great deal of misunderstanding concerning the policy to restore the ecological continuity of rivers. Implementation has been slowed by the difficulty of motivating the owners of installations. We must convince people that the proposed restorations are worthwhile, develop work methods and share feedback from projects with local stakeholders, provide project managers with better technical assistance, include the national programmes in the WFD programmes of measures and ensure that the people in the field are better integrated in the discussions on objectives. A key project would be to create basin-wide support programmes for installation owners in each of the main river basins.

What changes are needed in the Water information system (WIS-FR)?

Over time, the scope of the data managed by the WIS-FR has widened considerably. We must set clear limits for the WIS-FR and ensure that it focuses on the requirements imposed by the EU directives. WIS-FR coordination was assigned to Onema and we must see that the agency is clearly recognised as the leading entity in the information system and has the means to retain the skills and know-how required to handle such a large project. Data-production processes must be improved and access to the data must be made easier. Finally, submission of data on the performance of water and sanitation services must be made mandatory if we are to provide the necessary transparency concerning the cost and performance of services.

What is your perception of the role of Onema in water policy?

Onema plays a central role that should be reinforced even if structural changes are made. Water policy needs Onema as an oversight agency to develop and mobilise knowledge in favour of the work in the field. That role is indispensable to ensure the links between the various levels of action and the consistency of a policy whose implementation is highly decentralised.





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