The water information system
: a fundamental element in water policy
The WIS-F / Aims / Data availability / Users
Over the years, water stakeholders have produced vast quantities of data on water resources and aquatic environments.
In France, public authorities have attempted to organise the sharing of the data, resulting in the progressive establishment of the French water information system (WIS-F). This complex, partnership-based system organises the production, collection, storage, use and dissemination of the data. The system, intended to support public action, also fulfils two other obligations, namely to disseminate public environmental information (Arhus agreement) and report to national authorities and the European commission on the progress made in water policy. The WIS-F is coordinated by Onema under the responsibility of the Ecology ministry.
Water policy is vast and deals with removing dams from rivers, modifying regulatory limits for the release of pollutants, forbidding fishing and shellfish consumption in shellfish-production zones, assessing the effectiveness of river restorations, authorising construction of a wastewatertreatment plant, inspecting the protection zone around wells drawing water from aquifers and more. Whether the goal is to make decisions about restoring a river, changing regulations, to inspect how water is used or to evaluate water policies, State services must have on hand precise and reliable data on water resources, hydrological regimes, the physico-chemical and biological quality of aquatic environments and on the impact of human activities on environments. Similarly, project managers, e.g. a company building a bridge, require, for a given geographical site, precise data on river characteristics, the maximum annual flow rate, sediment transport, the existence of protected species, etc. Finally, citizens need information to participate in public decisions and in making their own decisions. The WIS-F is the system that organises the production, collection, storage, use and dissemination of the data.
Efforts to organise the data since 1992
Vast quantities of data on water exist in
France, of many types including quantitative,
chemical, biological, physicochemical, morphological, economic, regulatory, etc. They are produced by a very large number of organisations throughout the country, such as State services, the Water Agencies and Offices, Onema, research organisations, local governments and companies. They cover over 525 000 kilometres of rivers, over 34 000 ponds, lakes and artificial lakes behind dams,
1 500 aquifers over 10 square kilometres in size and thousands of kilometres of coastline.
All the above data are collected in the WIS-F.
The data, produced as needed, often on a very local level, were for years highly fragmented and scattered around the country. For over twenty years, the public authorities have attempted to address the need for shared information on water.
The central issue has been how to identify, collect, process, update and make accessible all the data that must be reliable and comparable for the country as a whole. This firm intention on the part of the public authorities resulted, in 1992 just after the new Water law, in the creation of the national network for water data. This network brought together the major data producers to facilitate the sharing and accessibility of the information required in particular for the formulation of the first river-basin management plans. Step by step, the network was enhanced and finally resulted in the
WIS-F in 2003.
WIS-Fin a few words