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    René Lalement, Director of the water information production and management department


There is nothing new in organising public policies to draw on knowledge organised in information systems supplied with demographic, economic and public-health data. On the other hand, the system used to create and use knowledge in the environmental sector is innovative for a number of reasons.

First of all, the knowledge is not reserved for public authorities, but on the contrary must be shared with the public to enable effective participation in decision-making, in compliance with the Århus agreement adopted in 1998 under the auspices of the United Nations. Secondly, EU law and notably the WFD (water framework directive) adopted in 2000 have made knowledge creation a mandatory component of public policy. For example, Member States must evaluate pressures on the environment and the cost of services, monitor water status, assess trends in pollution and estimate the costs and effectiveness of restoration measures. Finally, the States are required to use the created knowledge to organise and report on their policies, and even justify them in the event of litigation, e.g. to explain a waiver for WFD targets.

In light of the new system for knowledge use, it was necessary to legally establish the WIS-F (water information system France) which has in fact existed for some 15 years. That was achieved by the December 2006 law on water and aquatic environments which assigned system coordination to Onema. It is on that legal basis that the SNDE (national framework for water data) organises WIS-F data and the contributions of public entities in its implementation. The goal is to make the WIS-F work for water policies targeting growth.


René Lalement,
Director of the Water information production and management department - Onema