Going against the flow – Introduction and Part 1 (5/2021)


Click here: Full introduction and Part 1 (video and transcript) for 3 €

IN 2017, I COMPLETED AN INVESTIGATION ON THE QUALITY of surface and underground waters across the European Union (EU). I published it on ventdouxprod. I focused on two things:

  1. EU and French laws pertaining to water quality.

  2. Water management on various geographic scale (EU, France, river basin districts, etc.), with a focus on the Artois-Picardie river basin district in northern France (20,000 square kilometers and 4.7 million people).

Why go back on this issue four years later? Mostly because the EU promised to review its major directive on water quality by 2020: the Water framework directive passed in 2000 that all EU member States have to abide by.

I have other incentives to go back on this issue. New data are available about the state of surface and underground waters. Another reason has to do with the ever growing importance of water resources as populations grow, pressures on water increase in countless watersheds and global warming intensifies. In Europe, water quality in our rivers and groundwater, as well as the evolution of water law, tell us almost everything about our economic and political systems, about our relationships with our environment and others. We can simply look at water and its law to understand where we are as human communities.

This investigation and video series are based on a variety of sources, most of which are legal, scientific and journalistic. You can assess their relevance in the text attached to each video.

Content of Part 1

I. Basic concepts

  • I.1. Water bodies
  • I.2. The status of water bodies
  • I.3. Criticizing the assessment
  • I.4. Ecological potential

Excerpt from Part 1

[…] In Artois-Picardie, the assessment of ecological status thus disregards the extinction of otters and beavers; it almost entirely overlooks the extreme rarity of both salmon and eels that used to be common in this region; the assessment does not show more concern for the fragmentation of old-growth forests, not to mention primary forests which are nonexistent. Old-growth forests are at least 250 years old. Yet, these different animal species and forest types contribute in a significant manner to biodiversity and food webs in aquatic ecosystems; they can even influence the physico-chemical properties of surface water (AEAP et al., 2015, p.43-44; CRPF Poitou-Charentes, 2017; Decocq, 2013; Ministère TES, 2019 [a]; ONCFS, 2019; Préfecture de la région nord, 2007, p.13-16; Veron, 1992).

I.4. Ecological potential

Let’s address another basic concept: that of ecological potential. Thanks to European legislators, the ecological status can give way to the ecological potential. In order to do that, legislators made up the category of artificial or heavily modified water body. Artificial means created by human activity; heavily modified means affected by substantial physical alterations due to human activity, such as a river replaced with a canal. The artificial or heavily modified category applies to 17 percent of European water bodies. […]

Sources for this excerpt

AEAP et al., 2015. Partez à la rencontre de la biodiversité – Les poissons et leurs habitats dans le bassin Artois-Picardie. Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

Comité de bassin Artois-Picardie, 2015. SDAGE 2016-2021 du bassin Artois-Picardie. Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

CRPF Poitou-Charentes, 2017. UNE FORÊT PRODUCTRICE DE BOIS MAIS PAS SEULEMENT. Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

Decocq, 2013. Biodiversité et fertilité selon l’ancienneté de l’état boisé. AgroParisTech. Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

European environment agency, 2018 [a]. European waters: Assessment of status and pressures 2018. Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

EP and CEU, 2000. Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy. Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

Ministère TES, 2019 [a]. Plan National d’Actions en faveur de la Loutre d’Europe (Lutra lutra), 2019-2028. Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

ONCFS, 2019. Répartition du castor sur le réseau hydrographique (ONCFS). Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

Préfecture de la région nord, 2007. PLAN DE GESTION ANGUILLE DE LA FRANCE. Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

Veron, 1992. Histoire biogéographique du Castor d’Europe Castor fiber Rodentia (Mammalia). Page internet accédée le 26/5/2021

Nicolas Barbier 2021, all rights reserved