WATER project

Water quality within the Channel and the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) areas is dominated by the water quality of the numerous rivers that discharge into the Cross Border area on both the English and French sides.

WATER stands for: Wetted land: the Assessment, Techniques & Economics of Restoration.

Water quality (and quantity) within these rivers have common problems and all have deteriorated over recent history due to the management of their catchments and the large scale loss of wetted land (including wetlands, reedbeds, wet woodlands and floodplains), which buffer the river from the land.

Poor water quality (and quantity) in river catchments across the Channel area have many important social, economic and environmental implications including direct negative effects such as: increased droughts and floods; reduced biodiversity and ecosystem function; increased freshwater and marine eutrophication; and reductions in the river catchment’s ability to cope with the effects of climate change.

These implications, in turn, have indirect negative effects on; bathing water quality and tourism; fisheries and aquaculture; water treatment costs and drinking water availability; navigation in ports; increased flood and drought risk; and marine water quality deterioration on the continental shelf. These issues cannot be treated in isolation and require channel wide cooperation through integrated water resource management.

Whilst the ICZM area does not include river catchments the Water Framework Directive (WFD) covers all water bodies, including rivers and the ICZM area, and extends one nautical mile from the coast. The WFD aims to address the issue of poor water quality and quantity on a European level by assessing each river catchment and developing a programme of measures detailing how water quality and quantity can be improved. Whilst the government of each member state appointed a competent authority, the Environment Agency in England and DIREN in France, which adopted the responsibility to assess water body quality and compile a programme of measures for restoration there is no statutory responsibility to deliver this programme. The competent authorities in each member state are encouraging stakeholders to formulate mechanisms for delivery and funding.

Project objectives:

The WATER project will develop a market-based catchment restoration scheme which will be based on a Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) model and aims to identify both delivery and funding mechanisms to lever private investment for catchment restoration by:

1. Developing a substantive Channel wide cooperation network that identifies our shared common identities and problems and can deliver environmental restoration of wetted land within a river catchment in a cost effective way.

2. Develop a set of five robust cost/benefit guides that demonstrate how investment from private companies in catchment restoration can make a long-term impact on their profitability and competitiveness, inline with the Lisbon agenda, and ensure the sustainable development of the environment, inline with the Gothenburg agenda.
Simply put the people and businesses that benefit from good ecosystem function will pay directly the people who deliver good ecosystem function. They will do this because they have a clear understanding of the economic, social and environmental benefits as demonstrated by the WATER project.


The two objectives of the WATER project will be delivered through four main actions:

  • Assessing former distribution of wetted land within six river catchments, sub-catchments and local areas (rivers Exe & Axe – Devon, Ouse & Adur – Sussex, Cousenon – Ille et Vilaine and Oust – Morbihan) and several smaller test catchments.

  • Restoring and managing areas of wetted land and integrating it with economic research studies.

  • Evaluating the economic costs and benefits of restoring wetted land aimed at five private interest groups (water treatment, flood mitigation, carbon offsetting, biodiversity and catchment food branding).

  • Dissemination and transferral of knowledge through the project partnership and extension of the project approach through the development of a wider Channel network.

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