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Water management and quality: Irstea renews its partnership with the Rhone-Mediterranean and Corsica Water Agency

Jean-Marc Bournigal, President of Irstea, and Laurent Roy, Director General of the RMC Water Agency © Irstea


Irstea and the Rhone-Mediterranean and Corsica Water Agency have signed their 3rd water framework agreement in Lyon. The 4-year agreement aims to reinforce research on aquatic environments and provide specific, locally adapted responses on how to improve water quality and management.

Intermittent rivers, mountain lakes, lagoons, braided rivers and the Mediterranean coast: these aquatic environments are all unique to Rhone-Mediterranean and Corsican catchment areas. New knowledge is required to improve our understanding of how they work, carry out suitable analyses and take efficient action against any causes of degradation so as to restore or preserve their good ecological status in accordance with the aims of the European Water Framework Directive (EWFD).

To achieve this, the Rhone-Mediterranean and Corsica Water Agency [1] and Irstea have been in a partnership since 2005 to conduct joint research on priority topics such as the effects of global warming, the consequences of PCB contamination of the Rhone, and evaluating the effectiveness of treatment plants.

Innovative results

The formal partnership between Irstea and the water agency has already led to 56 projects. This partnership is characterized by innovative results and diverse operational benefits. These include improving wastewater treatment techniques using planted reed filters, evaluating new treatment procedures, enhancing “passive” samplers for monitoring emerging substances of concern such as pesticides or drug residues, creating toxic pollution assessment methods and developing the technical skills of staff involved in the management of aquatic environments as part of government reforms (GEMAPI). This partnership has also led to the study of the effects of climate change on rivers (e.g., the definition of a classification of intermittent rivers) and their resilience.

For this new 4-year period from 2016 to 2019, the partnership's goals have been reconfirmed as follows:

  •  Develop the scientific knowledge needed to create management plans (environmental knowledge specific to 2 catchment areas, regional adaptation to the effects of climate change on aquatic environments, reduction in flood risks by restoring good operation of aquatic environments, etc.);
  • Develop new tools to implement these plans (e.g., reusing treated wastewater, ecological engineering to improve catchment area development, new assessment and control tools for toxic pollution, modeling the impact of human activity on the operation of aquatic environments, etc.);
  • Improve indicators of effectiveness for implementing these management tools (integrating socioeconomic indicators) to ensure that any actions taken are truly effective for the good operation of aquatic environments.

The total investment over 4 years is 2 million euros, to be shared equally by the two institutions.

For more information:

[1] Public governmental institution for water protection operating under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment.