New System Improves River Basin Health Assessment for Water Framework Directive

Scientists have recently developed a new computer modeling system that will improve the way in which river basins are assessed for the European Water Framework Directive.

The system has been named the Elbe decision support system, (Elbe-DSS), after the river it was initially developed for assessing, the River Elbe, one of the largest in Europe.

The system will specifically monitor the following elements of river catchment:

  • Simulation models, representing the effect of different inputs such as rainfall, nutrient levels, and climate changes
  • Databases including soil maps and rainfall records
  • Management actions such as reforestation or erosion control
  • External constraints such as demographic change or agriculture policy
  • Management objectives such as reduction of emissions, improvement of water quality, or reduction of nutrients into the sea

  • One of the strengths of this system is that it will help cross-border collaboration in tackling river management objectives. The system can be intelligently manipulated in order to assess the likely impacts of likely changes in variables affecting the catchment area, such as reforestation and increased/decreased fertiliser input.

    Having tested theory against practice, it has proved to be reliable in predicting nutrient levels across the whole river basin. Because the system can be applied at various spatial scales, it means that approaches can be taken at specific locations across the modeled area in an efficient way. It also allows management actions to be ranked in importance according to modeled assumptions about future environmental and demographic changes.

    The system is free and available from the German Federal Institute of Hydrology, (although the website is currently under construction and written in German).

    This article is adapted from the Science Environment Policy Bulletin, Source: Lautenbach, S., Berlekamp, J., Graf, N. et al. (2009). Scenario analysis and management options for sustainable river basin management: Application of the Elbe DSS. Environmental Modelling and Software. 24(1): 26-43.