of Water Management in France
Organization of Water Management in France
Sound management of inland water resources has
become a major concern to ensure quality of life on our planet and sustainable
economic development of our societies.
Water, considered for a long time as a mere
fluid or a chemical product, must today be thought of as a living medium which
must be preserved in terms of quantity, quality and indeed diversity.
Water resources, considered to be abundant,
free and therefore taken for granted, especially in humid climate zones, must,
today, be treasured as a precious heritage : the uses of which must be planned
to allow for optimal satisfaction of all requirements, avoid wastage, prevent
irreversible damage, ensure necessary recycling, and must be approached in all
cases, in terms of cost as well as economic and financial balance.
These are complicated questions indeed, and throughout the world it has become necessary to find legal, organizational and technical solutions to really control water, in order to :
- control erosion, replenish low water flows, prevent natural catastrophes and hazards such as floods or drought,
- improve the hygiene and health of populations and prevent serious diseases, either in rural communities or in large urban or peri-urban areas where there is an urgent need for the organization of services for drinking water supply and wastewater treatment adapted to requirements, in quantity as in quality,
- ensure agro-food production by land reclamation and appropriate irrigation, and by the development of fishfarming,
- make possible the development of industry, energy production and, in some sectors, recreational sports, tourism and also fluvial transport, primarily, by means of multi-purpose integrated developments,
- prevent permanent pollution -accidental or non-point- and preserve aquatic balances and ecosystems.
These problems can
no longer be individually solved in a sectorial way but must be tackled by means
of an integrated approach on the geographic scale of each large hydrographic
Henceforth, agreements must be signed,
strategies defined, programmes designed, financial, administrative and technical
means found, and results controlled, verified and validated... at the level
of each tributary (river leasing contract, water development and management
schemes), of each large river basin (role of Water Agencies...) and more and
more on an international scale covering entire continents (large rivers, inland
or international seas).
That would imply mobilizing considerable means :
- on one hand, financial means, to modernize existing plants, create new necessary developments and equipment, and establish the monitoring and analyses networks necessary to observe phenomena and their evolution,
- on the other hand, human means, in order to organize management institutions and structures, to raise awareness of decision-makers at all levels and to train populations, water professionals and technicians (designers, producers, constructors, operators, suppliers...) and users (farmers, fishfarmers, industrialists, fishermen, sportsmen...). Limited available human resources are one of the reasons for the slow progress in this sector, as indeed, in many others.
In France, the setting up of a legislation
and of the necessary administrative and technical structures has been progressive.
Solutions that have been found since
1964 and updated in 1992, now provide the opportunity for all the partners involved
in water management and utilization -water being recognized as a heritage to
be shared by the nation - to act in concert, in the interest of all concerned.
This French experience should not
be regarded as a model, but, due to its precedence and results, could inspire
authorities of other countries to set up diversified organizations, adapted
to meet their local needs.