the Project

There is an increasing policy interest in the so-called Natural Water Retention Measures (NWRM) for improving the water status on hydromorphology and diffuse pollution. To respond to this interest, DG ENV launched a dedicated study entitled Pilot Project - Atmospheric Precipitation - Protection and efficient use of Fresh Water: Integration of Natural Water Retention Measures in River basin management (2013-2014). The two overall objectives of the pilot project were:

  • To develop a structured knowledge base on NWRM that can easily be accessed by all within the Water Information System for Europe (WISE);
  • To contribute to the development of an active European “community of NWRM practitioners”, thanks to the launching of different regional networks and the development of a practical manual for supporting NWRM design & implementation.


  1. Project type: Service contract
  2. Funding scheme: Lump sum basis
  3. Duration: 5th September 2013 – 5th November 2014
  4. Coordinator: Office International de l’Eau, Limoges, France
  5. Service contract: n° 07.0330/2013/659147/SER/ENV.C1
  6. EU contribution: €1,359,025

NWRM in brief:

Why are Natural Water Retention Measures on today's policy agenda?

With the Green infrastructure EU policy, there is an increasing interest in measures that aim to enhance the functioning of natural processes and ecosystems so that water can better infiltrate and be stored. These so-called Natural Water Retention Measures (NWRM) can represent cost-effective options for achieving the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and/or the Floods Directive. They can be part of Sustainable Urban Development plans to reduce investments in expensive water infrastructure. They can also help to enhance the resilience of (eco-)systems vis-à-vis climate change. Furthermore, NWRM can provide additional benefits in terms of ecosystem services delivery. In Europe, the implementation of NWRM is in its infancy. NWRM-related information is widely scattered and difficult to access. Readily available-information on practical cases, that can be a “source of inspiration” for practitioners from elsewhere, catchments or local areas, is rare.


NWRM initiative: what was it for?

DG Environment, European Commission, has launched an EU NWRM initiative that aimed to:

  • Develop sound and comprehensive European (web-based) knowledge on NWRM. The knowledge base (the current platform) structure available information on technical, environmental, socio-economic, governance and implementation aspects of NWRM, mobilizing existing practical experiences, studies and stakeholders’ knowledge. It is publicly available and provides a structured catalogue of NWRM, a set of 120 case studies illustrating the implementation of NWRM in a wide set of context, 11 synthesis documents allowing to go deeper in the understanding of the key specificities of NWRM implementation, a serious game to make the NWRM community and the key actors better understand constraints and opportunities of implementing NWRM, but also communication material with a leaflet translated in 22 languages and a Powerpoint introducing NWRM query facilities for extracting knowledge (e.g. a specific case study, information on costs, summarized information on a given NWRM type under specific water catchment conditions…). In the coming year it will provide input facilities for feeding new case studies and information.
  • Contribute to the development of a European NWRM “community of practice” by bringing together all parties interested in the design and implementation of NWRM in the context of the planning process of the WFD or the Floods Directive, the development of a climate change adaptation strategy or the establishment of sustainable urban plans. The NWRM practical guide developed can support the design and implementation of NWRM in Europe.

How was the community of experts involved?

  1. The EU NWRM initiative was partly built on the establishment of four informal regional networks for: collective learning about NWRM; sharing practical experiences and pooling expertise on NWRM implementation; identifying key policy and implementation issues – and solutions to tackle them. Access the web-based NWRM discussion forum to consolidate partnership and continue information exchange.
  2. While the project is now finished, you can still raise issues in the discussion fora and react to others’ views and statements; send comments on the initiative’s deliverables; or learn from on-going (lively!) electronic exchanges.

Four regional networks facilitated by consortium partners were established as part of the EU NWRM initiative and facilitated all along the project:

  • The Danube river basin
  • The Mediterranean sea region
  • Northern Europe/the Baltic Sea
  • Western Europe

The regional processes were not only successful in bringing together NWRMs communities in the four regions, but they were also able to unlock a wealth of information and knowledge on NWRM implementation “on the ground”, through the contributions of experts, practitioners and policy makers from the four regions. The workshops provided the ideal ground for these exchanges: presentations, discussions, policy panels and role games allowed to highlight the key features of NWRM implementation in the four regions, as well as major opportunities for and challenges to implementation.

The following sections highlight, region by region, the following aspects:

  • General overview and geographic features;
  • Main NWRMs implemented in the region;
  • Key messages from the workshop;
  • Interactions and synergies with regional stakeholders.

Who participated?

The initiative was open to: practitioners who are or have been involved in the design and practical implementation of NWRM in different sectors (urban, agriculture, forestry…); managers involved in the development of River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) or Flood Management plans; technical service staff (for example, from a large city engaged in a “sustainable city” initiative); representatives from funding agencies that can support NWRM implementation; representatives from economic sectors that can implement NWRM; environmental NGOs; researchers and independent experts, etc.

The eight regional Workshops and the forum were very successful in gathering a diverse audience and mobilising knowledge and practical examples. All presentations and summary of exchanges are available for consultation.


How has the initiative fed EU policy making?

The synthesis of discussions and views expressed in the web-forum or discussed during the regional workshops were systematically accounted for when developing the deliverables of the initiative for DG Environment. In addition, the knowledge gathered and synthesised have fed into discussions of the working groups established under the EU WFD Common Implementation Strategy (CIS). In addition, knowledge on NWRM as green infrastructure solutions and fed the EU Green Infrastructure policy. For more details, see thye final report of the project.


What benefits may you expect from using and promoting NWRM?

Room for Nature and ‘soft measures’ are gaining momentum to make policy operational. Making best use of scarce financial resources has become a driver to policy making. NWRM are particularly relevant in this context because, being multi-functional measures, they can deliver different ecosystem services. They can also contribute to the achievement of different policy goals.

In the longer term the vision is for the establishment of the European NWRM knowledge base and of a common framework for supporting the successful implementation of NWRM. By providing a common framework and a sound basis for implementing NWRM, the European NWRM knowledge base will contribute to effective and efficient implementation at all decision-making scales in the field of water (e.g. the WFD, the Floods Directive, the strategy on Water Scarcity and Drought, the EU Water Blue Print...), climate change adaptation, biodiversity, sustainable urban development, etc.


If you have an interest in the DG ENV initiative on NWRM

  • to share your practical experience in designing or implementing NWRM, or results from your research project
  • to search for inspiring examples of “NWRM in practice”
  • to contribute to the development of the knowledge base so that it best serves your and others’ future needs
  • to learn about all aspects of NWRM so you can advocate their importance at all decision making levels (from the local to the European level)


  1. Contact us
  2. Apply to the discussion forum, contributing in the discussion, submitting reference documents, interesting case studies…
  3. Explore the resources of the website (NWRMs, case studies catalogue, sources)


Logos of all partners of NWRM project