Interview with Mr. Adam Kovacs from ICPDR


Adam Kovacs is a civil engineer with specialization in water quality management. He graduated from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He received a PhD in water resources management from the Vienna University of Technology. He worked in the academic sector as professor and research assistant for 12 years focusing on water quality modelling and management. Since 2013, he has been working as the Technical Expert on Pollution Control at the Permanent Secretariat of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). He coordinates the technical work of the Pressures and Measures Expert Group, Accident Prevention and Control Expert Group and Nutrients Task Group.

What do you believe are the benefits of NWSRM measures for water bodies in CE?

Natural water retention measures (NWRMs) explore the water retention potential of soil, vegetation and landscape by improving their buffer capacity. In this way, they are able to improve the soil water balance, decrease soil erosion, trap sediment transport and enhance nutrient retention and recirculation. Besides these local benefits, they can contribute to the catchment scale water, sediment and nutrient retention that can have positive impacts on flooding, siltation and nutrient enrichment of water bodies but also can ensure sufficient water quantity for plant growth and can contribute to maintain ecological flow in streams. Moreover, NWRMs that are located adjacent to water bodies may maintain preferable hydromorphological conditions. NWRMs offer solutions with potential multiple benefits that should also be preferred besides the conventional technological measures, which are efficient but mainly designed for a single purpose. NWRMs clearly can and should be integrated into river basin and flood risk management providing the possibility of implementing multi-beneficial measures enhancing inter alia water retention, sediment and nutrient management, climate change resilience, hydromorphological conditions.

What are some of the main challenges related to the management of waters in CE and how can FramWat address them?

Central-Europe is a region where flood, water scarcity & drought, eutrophication, toxic pollutants and hydromorphological alterations are all existing problems representing major current water management challenges. Issues with flooding and especially summer water scarcity are projected to be more serious under changing future climate. To address these complex issues implementation of integrated water management is needed. This is in line with the key water management related legislation of the European Union, the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive. To achieve good chemical and ecological status and to mitigate flood risk countries need to implement respective measures. Here one of the challenges is how to interlink the implementation of the two Directives to achieve good synergy. The main aim of FramWat is to deepen the knowledge on NWRMs and to provide tools and guidance for river basin and flood risk managers in order to incorporate and transfer NWRMs from theory to practice. Hence, FramWat will support the next generation of river basin management plans and flood risk management plans with knowledge and tangible results related to NWRM implementation and its multiple benefits for water management.

Do you consider there are synergies between FramWat and other projects (past and present) in CE, and how could such synergies be utilized?

 There are projects and initiatives in the Danube region currently being implemented or will be implemented in the coming years, which have similar or slightly overlapping objectives with those of the FramWat. The CAMARO-D and the Danube Floodplain projects financed by the Danube Transnational Program have potential synergy with FramWat for cooperation and capitalisation that should be exploited. CAMARO-D aims at setting the frame and developing comprehensive recommendations for a harmonized transnational landuse management system in the DRB, taking into account the demands of water resources protection and flood prevention.  The objective of the Danube Floodplain Project is to improve transnational water management and flood risk prevention while maximizing benefits for biodiversity conservation through restoration of floodplains and combination of classical, green infrastructure and natural retention measures. Information exchange, mutual activities and utilization or incorporation of results among these projects are very beneficial and highly recommended. Moreover, the ICPDR has initiated a broad discussion process with the agricultural sector in order to develop a guidance document on sustainable agriculture in the DRB. The main objective of the guidance is to decouple future agricultural development from increasing nutrient pollution and water scarcity of surface and ground waters. To achieve this goal the guidance paper will recommend sound policy instruments, financial programs and cost-efficient agricultural measures for decision makers in the agro-environmental policy field. It should act as a strategic policy framework providing consistent approaches into which the Danube states are encouraged to integrate their individual national methods. FramWat outputs should feed the guidance document with recommendations related to NWRM implementation. Aligning water and agricultural policies is high on the agenda of the European Commission, therefore outcomes of FramWat might be useful at the broader European scale, too.

What do you consider to be the best way to ensure that the outputs and knowledge gained during FramWat, are transferred to other relevant stakeholders and are sustained in the future?

NWRMs have been underlined as good practices in the 2nd Danube River Basin Management Plan and the 1st Flood Risk Management Plan for the Danube River Basin but the implementation is in the hand of the Danube countries. The national plans should have more detailed guidance how to implement these measures, particularly in terms of local landuse planning, financing and stakeholder involvement. In addition, the national RBMPs and FRMPs should be better harmonized and coordinated with Rural Development Programs in order to achieve good synergy. FramWat outputs should provide inputs for these national planning processes. The overall success of the measure implementation depends on the acceptance, the available information, the implementation capability, the related regulations and the economic benefits. The measures should be attractive for the farmers and landscape managers. High participation quota in NWRM implementation is a prerequisite for positive impacts on hydrology and nutrient management at the catchment scale. NWRMs should be better promoted and properly subsidized in the next financing period of the Common Agricultural Policy (e.g. Greening and Rural Development Programmes). Appropriate economic incentives (subsidies) should support the implementation. More activities on awareness raising and information exchange are needed to change land management behaviour. There is no „one size fits all“ solution so a toolbox for proper combination of cost-efficient measures would be very beneficial. Well-organized advisory services should provide the necessary information and capacity building options for the implementation (consultation, training). This should be accompanied with bottom-up initiatives for information exchange among farmers. FramWat potential outputs can certainly support water and landscape managers from all these aspects by providing information and guidance on the measures but also by developing policy recommendations related to NWRM implementation.