Within the EU, considerable work had been undertaken to develop the ‘TEN-T’ Trans-European network of high-capacity freight waterways. The task has been to ensure these improvements and the carbon reductions they achieve, are balanced by safeguarding and developing the recreational waterway network in a sustainable way that ensures that environmental and cultural heritage of the waterways is maintained and enhanced.

Key tasks have been to assess the impacts of recreational boating on canal ecology & biodiversity, integration of waterways with the urban and rural areas through which they pass, and how to manage ‘green’ promotion of the waterways as a tourism and educational resource.

Other important issues being tackled are how to improve water quality, reduce pollutants, manage water run-offs, manage flood/drought alleviation, and plan against risk.

The information below sets out some findings from previous and current EU funded projects that NIWE members have participated in or are keeping a keen eye on. We also provide some key documents from other sources that support the importance of this theme and waterway sector.

Sullied Sediments

An Interreg North Sea Region (NSR) project which runs from January 2017 to December 2020

13 partners involved from across public, private, community and voluntary sector organisations based in the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The intention is to help regulators and water managers make better decisions about the management, removal, and disposal of sediments, thereby reducing economic costs to private and public sector organisations, and the impact of these pollutants on the environment.

This is because many of Europe’s inland waterways are under threat due to the introduction of Watch List chemicals that are not currently regulated under the European Water Framework Directive. These chemicals enter our waterways because of our day-to-day activities and through industry, and many have been shown to be harmful to wildlife and the wider aquatic environment. Regardless of their source, these pollutants accumulate in the sediments in our rivers and canals over time.

Water regulators and managing authorities do not always know the levels, locations or impacts of these pollutants. Nor do they have the tools to assess sediments confidently and make informed environmental management decisions.

To address these issues, the Sullied Sediment project partnership of scientific experts, regulators and water managers have been developing and testing new tools that will enable stakeholders to better assess, treat and prevent contamination from these chemicals. This work is being carried out at selected sites in the Elbe, Humber, and Scheldt river catchments.

The success of projects like Sullied Sediments would not be achievable without public involvement. ‘Citizen science’ gets members of the public involved in carrying out scientific research. Canal & River Trust’s main role has been enlisting the help of ‘citizen scientists’ from its pool of waterway volunteers to both raise awareness of the issue and to collect water samples. Getting local people involved is not only hugely beneficial for large-scale projects like this, but by involving those who use and benefit from nearby habitats in learning more about it also gives a sense of stewardship over these special areas.

Later work has involved development of the RiverDip Citizen Science programme with an online Volunteer Guide through a microsite and video showing volunteers on how they can get involved to collect more water samples and measure chemicals and upload results through an app. This has helped widen involvement of volunteers in a sediment sampling initiative across the North Sea Region, generating interest in Belgium, the UK and as far afield as the US and Tunisia.

Key outputs and project related evidence:

1 Investigation of selected Watch List Chemicals.

2 Contaminated sediments tools for risk assessment framework

3 Remediation techniques for watch list chemicals

4 Contaminants of emerging concern

5 Reuse of sediment Policy framework

6 System analysis of sediments in the water system

7 Analysis technique Mineral oil in sediment

8 Reliability of Bioassays in Ecotoxicology

9 Better-assessment of a sediment management framework

10 Workshop role of ecotox data in assessment framework

11 Comparison of tools for the assessment of sediment pollution

12 Integrated classification scheme for sediments



An Interreg North Sea Region (NSR) project from the 2014-2020 programme.

CATCH stands for ‘water sensitive ‘Cities: the Answer To CHallenges’ of extreme weather events’. The overall objective of CATCH is to demonstrate and accelerate the redesign of urban water management of midsize cities in the North Sea Region in order to become climate resilient cities that are sustainable, liveable and profitable on the long term.

Collaboration in CATCH is key. The partnership of 12 partners from 6 NSR countries develops a decision support tool and roadmap to support midsize cities in designing long term climate adaptation strategies and demonstrates that midsize cities in cooperation with their partners can accelerate the urgent process to become climate resilient.

The joint development of a decision support tools that will support midsize cities to formulate long term climate adaptation strategies is at the core of this project. The design of the tools is based on the specific needs and characteristics of midsize cities. The tools are tested through delivery and evaluation of 7 ‘local’ pilots.

In the North Sea Region, 80% of the population live in urban areas of which a majority lives in midsize cities. CATCH addresses the special needs of these midsize cities to deal with climate change adaptation and the resulting extreme weather events. Due to its scale, limited resources and expertise and tight connection with the surrounding region, midsize cities often face different challenges to deal with climate change adaptation compared to large cities.

CATCH is inspired by the Water Sensitive Cites (WSC) theory which provides three principles that help cities to evolve from an engineered urban water system to an integrated adaptive and climate resilient water system. These principles are to capture measures, approaches and perspectives:

  1. Cities as catchments: The urban water system is often part of a larger catchment area. The intensive exploitation of the urban landscape resulted in the progressive decrease of the natural water system to the detriment of the surrounding region. The goal is to restore the water balance within these regions.
  2. Ecological services: The same water that poses the biggest threat to society also brings life and energy to the cities. Ecological services are the benefits that people derive from ecosystems. A river area for instance can be used multifunctional for flood protection, groundwater recharge, recreation and for the improvement of the quality of live.
  3. Water sensitive communities and networks: The implementation of integrated solutions requires improved perception of the benefits from decision makers, businesses and the public across multiple constituencies and levels of governance.



An Interreg North Sea Region (NSR) project from the 2014-2020 programme.

Flooding is a major risk for loss of life and economic damage in the North Sea Region (NSR). Flood protection is the cornerstone of our strategy to reduce these risks with benefit-cost ratio of 6:1. The >100Bn Euro worth infrastructure assets that protect us from flooding in NSR, such as dykes, sluices and dams are ageing (many are 70-100y old) and often its performance is no longer at the desired level. The flood protection infrastructure needs renovation, adaptation, and maintenance all across NSR.

The overall objective of the FAIR project is to reduce flood risk across the NSR by demonstrating climate change adaptation solutions to improve the performance of flood protection infrastructure. FAIR demonstrates improved approaches for cost-effective upgrading and maintenance, optimising investments across national-system-asset levels, as well as applying adaptive, innovative technical designs.

FAIR builds upon NSR INTERREG IV results (ia MARE, SAWA) and state-of-the-art EU research from its partners (Deltares, TUHH, Sayers). FAIR guides the full-scale implementation of reinforcement, upgrade and maintenance programmes of dykes, sluices, dams, flood gates and pumping stations at target sites in UK, B, NL, D, DK, SE worth >1Bn/y until 2020. A transnational approach is vital to accelerate learning, as there is no budget or time for ‘trial and error’. FAIR gathers the major asset owners in the NSR (eg RWS, LSBG, MOW), the first international collaboration of its kind.

Partners are;

  • The Netherlands – Rijkswaterstaat (Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment), UNESCO-IHE, Deltares, HHSK – Regional Water Authority Schieland and the Krimpenerweaard
  • Sweden – Länsstyrelsen Skåne – The County Administrative Board of Skane
  • Belgium – Maritieme Dienstverlening en kust
  • Denmark – Kyskdirektoratet
  • Germany – TUHH – Institute of River and Coastal Engineering, LSGB – The agency of roads, bridges and waters, Ministry of Economy, Traffic and Innovation of the city of Hamburg
  • UK – Sayers and Partners

The FAIR Knowledge bank is a very useful ‘toolbox’ for organisations dealing with the subject of flooding.


WaterCo-Governance (WaterCoG)

An Interreg North Sea Region (NSR) project from the 2014-2020 programme.

Nine organizations from five countries participate in the Interreg WaterCoG project – a range of partners and stakeholders from Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, and the UK

It aims to understand the extent to which effective stakeholder and community participation in water management (co-governance) can deliver more sustainable and long-term approaches to managing North Sea Region (NSR) ecosystems by improving the implementation of key environmental objectives such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The focus is to understand how the implementation of EU directives can be achieved at a local level Region.

The natural environment is dependent on water to provide society with many essential benefits or “ecosystem services” (e.g. drinking water, biodiversity, food production, recreation, carbon sequestration). A number of EU directives aim to protect and improve the delivery of these services. However, successful implementation and integration of the different directives at a local level is a major shared challenge in the NSR. Understanding how this can be achieved is fundamental to delivering long-term sustainable ecosystem-based management strategies for the NSR and the focus for the WaterCoG project.

The project demonstrates through the adoption of new participatory, ecosystem service based approaches that implementation and integration of different water management frameworks can be achieved at the same time as providing additional social, economic and environmental benefits not currently being realised.

The WaterCoG Output library is a rich source of information broken down into Reports, Tools, Case Studies, Animations and additional communications outputs.




Supported through the Interreg IIIB North West Europe Region programme, Crosscut ran from 2004 until early 2008.

The partnership consisted of 8 partners from 4 countries (Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands & UK), under the leadership of British Waterways (now Canal & River Trust)

Within the EU, considerable work had been undertaken to develop a trans-European network of high-capacity freight waterways.  Crosscut aimed to extend this approach to recreational waterways and identify gaps and bottlenecks in the region’s transnational network of canals and navigable rivers. It aimed to safeguard and develop the recreational waterway network within the North West Europe region and demonstrate how this could be done in a sustainable way but wanted to help ensure that environmental and cultural heritage of the waterways is maintained and enhanced.

The project then went on to investigate how these gaps and bottlenecks can be removed in a sustainable way, through implementing a series of demonstration projects on the partner waterways to address specific issues.  At the same time, these demonstration projects undertook restoration work on some of the partner waterways, thus helping remove some of the gaps and bottlenecks in the network.

Pilot actions undertaken by the partners in Crosscut explored the issues involved and sought to develop sustainable solutions.  Specific actions investigated: –

  • The impacts of recreational boating on canal ecology & biodiversity;
  • The ecological restoration and management of canal banks, quay walls and channels;
  • Wider corridor development i.e. the integration of waterways with the urban and rural areas through which they pass;
  • Promotion of the waterways as a tourism and educational resource; and
  • Community involvement and participation.

Key outputs and project related evidence:

Crosscut (2003-08) FINAL REPORT