Case study in Germany: Lower Weser

The German case study will be conducted in the river basin district of the Weser. For this purpose, Seecon cooperates with the coordination office of the river basin district Weser (Flussgebietsgemeinschaft Weser – FGG Weser). As I-3[1] the study will highlight the 'area cooperations' (see below) as means for direct stakeholder involvement. In addition and in this context, a focus will be put on the interaction between scales in dealing with two main tasks of WFD-implementation, that is the setting of environmental objectives and the selection of measures.

The river basin district Weser (black line) and the border of Lower Saxony to the South and North (red highlighted line)
(Map adapted from "Bewirtschaftungsplan Flussgebietseinheit Weser. 2005. Bestandsaufnahme. FGG Weser")

The study will focus on the coordination area Weser which forms the lower part of the river basin. It is located in North-West Germany in Lower Saxony as one of the German Länder. In contrast to many other European countries, in Germany it is not the federal government that is in charge of implementing the WFD but the responsibility is at Länder level.

The German case study will assess the extent to which area cooperations as instrument for active involvement of interest groups, facilitate the WFD implementation process within the administrative setting and, more in particular, look at their role within the overall horizontal and vertical interaction of decision making. Additionally, it will evaluate the results of the recent initiative of setting up a Wasseragentur (taking the French Agence de l'eau as role model) as a potential I-3.

As a regional and direct form of active involvement, the Ministry of Environment of Lower Saxony established 28 so-called 'area cooperations' (Gebietskooperationen) in autumn 2005 (MU Nds. 2005), covering the whole of Lower Saxony. These have been designed as long-term institutions with the aim of contributing to the implementation of the WFD in regard to surface waters. Regionally they overlap in most cases with the defined working areas as lowest working level of the WFD in Lower Saxony.

The area cooperations typically consist of approximately 15 participants representing different regional organisations, including water management, agriculture and nature conservation. Accordingly they meet to a large extent the criteria for active and direct stakeholder participation. Even though the official consultation process at the level of river basin districts, which started by the end of 2006, can also influence the implementation of the WFD, the most important discussions, and perhaps decisions, will take place within these area cooperations as institutions of active involvement (Kastens and Newig 2008). This innovative means for putting participation into practice will serve as a starting point to further analyse the institutional set-up for implementing the WFD including the integration of expert and stakeholder knowledge into decision making at different levels. A focus will be here on the mechanisms that guarantee the vertical and horizontal interaction of decision making.

The following area cooperations are selected for more intensive investigation:

All area cooperations are located in the basin district of the Weser which is generally impacted by

(Figure based on FGG Weser:

Whereas the first problem concerning the salt discharge apply only to the Leine-Westaue, the anthropogenic increase of the nutrient load and the structural problems occur in all three cases. The active involvement of interest groups into the implementation of the WFD by the means of area cooperations got the overall aim to take such differences into account by supporting the development of typical and innovative measures for the region.

The German case study will work along the lines of the inception report. Additionally, the German case study will – in accordance with the stakeholders – focus on the following questions:

To these ends, the case study will include the following (action) research activities:


Please, do not hesitate to contact Dagmar Ridder

[1] I3: Innovative Instruments and Institutions for implementing the WFD.

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