Poland: Guidelines and Recommendations for the Planning Process According to the Requirements of the Water Framework Directive; The Upper Vistula River Basin (#380)

Management of the Upper Vistula basin is guided through the project Continuation of the Implementation of the Water Framework Directive, which is a joint French-Polish initiative. This project provides avenues for exchange of practical experiences between Polish and French partners, mobilises different stakeholders within basin borders. The most important lesson learned is to remember that documents should be transparent and comprehensible. 


A Polish-French Twinning Project “Continuation of the Implementation of the Water Framework Directive” PHARE PL2003/IB/EN/02 resulted in production of guidelines and recommendations for management of Upper Vistula basin. A co-operation with the Polish Ministry of the Environment, the French Ministry of ecology and Sustainable Development and the International Office for Water analyzed the river basin characterization process and planning sequences.

This was a result of two years of co-operation between Polish and French experts who are faced with issues of implementing the WFD in their respective countries at national, regional or basin level. The aim of the twinning project was to exchange ideas and experiences for the best practices and carry out field tests in Upper Vistula river basin.

The analysis from the project constitutes a basis for work at the level of river basins and this has been important since it provides a summary of methodologies and recommendations important for the planning process.

There has also been elaboration of the risk assessment which is very vital for gathering information for identification of the important anthropogenic impacts and the evaluation of their influence on the status of water bodies in order to streamline the polish water legislation with the WFD. This is crucial since achieving good ecological status is a process that requires to follow up in different management stages that result one from another and that are interdependent.

The final outcome of the project was a development of guideline documents, recommendations and methodologies in order to implement WFD efficiently in Poland.

Action taken

The Twinning Project provided avenues for exchange of practical experiences between Polish and French partners. It also mobilized a cooperation between different stakeholders within basin borders, which constituted an important support process in the planning and implementation of the WFD.

In addition, it conducted tests and risk assessment for the surface water, groundwater and coastal waters for identification and complete refinement of the assessment methods. This constitutes a benchmark for the evaluation of good status of groundwater and coastal water as well as the requirements dealing with the hydrodynamic and hydrochemical parameter measures to achieve the WFD objectives.

The tests finally led to draft versions of thematic guidance documents discussed at national level workshops and meetings.

More so, a wide public consultation was done aimed at dealing with the schedule and programme of works related to the establishment of RBM Plan. A very important element of the consultation was to establish a mechanism to exchange and share information to the interested parties. This has enabled the Regional Offices for Water Management to develop guidelines regarding different aspects of management.

Lessons learned

The most important lesson learned is to remember that document should be legible, transparent and comprehensible for people that don’t know the WFD thematic. It is important that the overview contains a list of the main issues with a short description of the problems o and or issues.

It was realized that lack of data and information not acquired on regular basis necessitated the use of series of approximations to for the establishment of the first RBM plans. Hence the current proposed methodological solutions dealing with the risk assessment are expected to be refined in the future.

The economic analysis of the present situation in the river basin was not sufficient making it difficult to develop a programme of measures accurately. However, the assessment of trends for the main economic activities is crucial as cost recovery analysis is an important element during planning to identify the costs of investment, operating costs but also resources and environmental costs of the water services and how these costs are dispatched through the main economic sectors.

Education and exchange of information increases awareness and public participation in planning at all levels. Access to information can be used to gather both regional and local water actors to raise their questions, discuss management issues and challenges through water forums.

Photo credit: Adam Foster