How protecting small things matters a lot


Workshop on the Protection and Management of Small Water Bodies

Although the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is intended to protect all water bodies, and although small waters – small streams, ponds and ditches – are a major part of Europe’s freshwater network, they remain largely neglected. At the workshop, organised on the 14 November by the European Environmental Bureau, in co-operation with the European Commission, the Lithuanian Presidency and the Freshwater Habitats Trust, the participants explored how to prevent further degradation of small waters and begin the process of developing best practice guidance for the protection and management of small waters in EU Member States.

Small water bodies include many of the least damaged freshwaters across the continent. Compelling scientific evidence, presented during the workshop, shows that they support a large proportion of freshwater biodiversity and are vital for many ecosystem services they provide for society, and through their influence on the condition of many larger waters. Yet, considering their typically small catchments, they are by definition highly vulnerable to changes which have little effect on larger water bodies. Thus, in the UK for example, only 30% of lowland headwaters are at good or high status according to their invertebrate communities, and more than 50% of ponds have disappeared since the early 20th century, with only 10% of those remaining in good condition.

There is now an urgent need to take action and increase the integration of small waters with the WFD process and prevent their continued degradation [1]. Recognising the ecological and economic value of small waters and their great sensitivity to impacts of many human activities, Mr Dalius Krinickas, the director of Water Department of the Lithuanian Ministry of the Environment, pointed out in his introductory remarks how this workshop can be regarded as a way towards achieving an ambitious goal of good water quality and good physical conditions of small water bodies.

Workshop participants, who included various stakeholders, scientists, representatives of the European Environment Agency, Ramsar Convention Secretariat, national environmental protection agencies and ministries, and of the European Commission, discussed possible ways to monitor and protect small waters without excessive cost and on how to integrate water and nature policies, including using small waters for enhancing ecosystems services. The workshop also considered ways to disseminate best-practices for the sustainable management and engagement of citizens in the protection of small waters.

In addition to raising awareness of EU policy-makers on the urgent need to take action, this workshop will also lead to the publication of a policy and practice advisory manual, produced in time for the second cycle of River Basin Management Planning in Summer 2014. As pointed out by Mr Peter Gammeltoft, the Head of the Water Unit at DG Environment, the output of this workshop can usefully feed into the Common Implementation Strategy process of the WFD.

Further information:
- Agenda
- Background document
- Presentations

Both the EEA in its 2012 reports on the state of Europe's water and the European Commission in its Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources, presented in 2012, recognise the importance of preventing continued degradation of small waters.

For more info, please contact:

Leonardo MAZZA

Senior Policy Officer: Biodiversity, Water and Ecosystems

Tel: +32 (0) 2 289 10 93