Home - Mission - A Four Part Strategy



Onema has made research and science advice its top priorities. It is progressively bringing on board the necessary scientific and technical personnel, and developing long-term partnerships with public research institutes to carry out the research programs and studies required to implement water policy. The initial contracts were signed with BRGM, Cemagref, Ineris and Ifremer.

Sustainable management of water resources and aquatic environments raises a number of major scientific challenges at the crossroads between many different disciplines. Examples are quantifying good ecological status, anticipating the effects of climate change on water resources and aquatic environments, assessing the impact of human activities, detecting emerging pollutants at very low concentration levels and evaluating their long-term risks, meeting the challenge of wastewater treatment and supplying drinking water in the overseas territories, etc. All the above are complex challenges whose solutions call for high-level research targeting directly useable results, carried out in research institutes.

The scientific community is already mobilising to address the main topics of sustainable development, but we must nonetheless gear up French research and establish a true strategy with our partners. The goal is to provide the knowledge that is currently lacking and to respond as quickly as possible to the needs of decision-makers and managers who require science advice on complex subjects, as well as innovative tools and technologies.

The mission at Onema is to provide high-level science advice, as well as guide and stimulate research targeting directly useable results for water issues. To that end, it mobilises the French scientific community and organises its partnerships with research institutes, while developing its strategy to determine the priority fields of research. Onema addresses all aquatic environments, both freshwater and ocean.
To date, four contracts have been signed, with BRGM on knowledge and monitoring of groundwater resources, with Cemagref on management of continental surface waters, with Ineris on chemical pollution of aquatic environments and with Ifremer on coastal waters. The initial documents, technical guides, methods and science-advice papers are expected at the end of 2008.

With BRGM, eight R&D priorities

  • Study the hydrogeology of the Pérou river basin in Guadeloupe,
  • Assess water resources on Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe,
  • Draw up a summary of available knowledge on the consequences of gold washing in French Guiana,
  • Participate in the programme of Aquaref, the reference laboratory for water,
  • Study the relations between groundwater and rivers,
  • Experimental study on the active management of coastal aquifers,
  • Develop tools to characterise the structure and operation of karstic systems, and to evaluate their resources,
  • Draft a guide explaining the vulnerability of karstic systems.

The above programme will last two years with a total budget of approximately 560 000 €.

With Cemagref, five major research topics on the management of continental surface waters

  • Understand and assess the effects of global and climate change on the water cycle and on the operation and diversity of ecosystems,
  • Restore ecological continuity and the physical functions of aquatic ecosystems,
  • Develop chemical and ecological indicators for water bodies to measure new or poorly-understood substances, diffuse or accidental pollution, etc,
  • Make progress in environmental technologies, e.g. water-treatment systems, reuse of wastewater, reduction of leaks in networks, etc,
  • Make progress in the economic assessment and management of natural resources, of how water is used and the corresponding services.

The above programme covers the year 2008 with a total budget of almost 7 M€.

With Ineris, a framework agreement to fight against chemical pollution in aquatic environments

  • Define permissible concentration levels for pollutants in aquatic environments, acceptable on both the national and European levels,
  • Improve measurement systems and analysis methods to lower detection limits for regulated or emerging pollutants,
  • Develop environmental modelling,
  • Develop biomarkers to monitor the impact of pollutant mixes on the biota in rivers.

For the year 2008, the annual budget is 2.1 M€.

With Ifremer, eight R&D priorities

  • Study the distribution of lead isotopes as an indicator of the origin of contamination,
  • Study chlordecone contamination of ocean fish around Martinique,
  • Study mercury contamination of fish in the ocean sections of rivers in French Guiana,
  • Develop tools for ecotoxicology studies on exposed organisms in their natural habitat in the English Channel and the North Sea,
  • Study bioaccumulation of hydrophobic, organic contaminants along the food chain. Summarise work to date on PCBs,
  • Determine the correspondence between the biota and water to set environmental quality standards,
  • Model nitrogen transfers due to cross-border atmospheric pollution.

For the year 2008, the annual budget of the jointly managed action programme is 2.1 M€.