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Nature-Based Solutions Impacts on Water Quality & Waterbody Conditions


Water legislation is important. Water management laws in European countries stem back centuries and are a central concern for civilisations throughout the ages and across our planet. However, human-induced global warming, climate change and environmental degradation caused by pollution and habitat loss have all placed greater emphasis still on how societies organise the management of access to, or protection from, water - along with interest in the legal frameworks handling water-related disputes between people, communities, cities, regions and countries or even continents.

This document summarises outcomes relating to water quality and waterbody conditions from the EC initiative on the valorisation of projects on Nature-based Solutions (NBS). EU research and innovation projects were scanned for results pertaining to key areas such as Water Framework Directive (WFD) implementation, cross-compliance with the Common Agricultural Policy, catchment management, diffuse pollution and waterbodies. Evidence from the reviewed projects is framed within knowledge from the literature in the realm of water policy, to give as full a picture as possible about the state of the art with relevant NBS.

Contextualised information is provided on policy developments, research results and key lessons. The resulting evidence base includes figures and monetary values showing the relative cost-effectiveness of NBS, and exploring how they support water policy implementation, on: (1) Point sources of pollution including combined sewer overflows (CSOs); (2) Urban drainage and stormwater quality – including urban diffuse pollution control; (3) Agricultural pollution, land drainage and soil erosion in rural catchments; (4) Hydromorphology and the restoration of modified waterbodies; and (5) Wider relationships with cohesion, regeneration, health and wellbeing. 

NBS interventions in urban environments can deliver cost savings due to reduced stormwater flows and CSO spills, outperform hard infrastructure on cost grounds, and provide valuable co-benefits including improved environmental quality, better health and wellbeing outcomes and inclusive socio-economic regeneration results. Similarly in rural communities, integrated valuations of NBS for water purification and flood risk management show they can outperform grey infrastructure alternatives, at a similar cost, whilst providing additional benefits such as wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

Reference information

European Commission

Published in Climate-ADAPT Jul 01 2021   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Sep 10 2022

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