REFORM newsletter No 2 - December 2012

Welcome editorial by the REFORM Coordinator

Dear reader,

We are pleased to present the second REFORM newsletter and keep you informed on the progress of our project and on other connected developments. At the moment, more than 100 colleagues have subscribed to receive our newsletters automatically. If you do not yet receive our newsletter automatically and are interested, then please visit our home page (, where you can subscribe. Of course, we always appreciate it when you forward our newsletter to interested colleagues.

I first would like to update you on the progress of REFORM and its upcoming events. In September 2012 our Polish partner, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, hosted the second all-partner meeting in Goniądz, on the banks of the famous and beautiful Biebrza River. REFORM has such meetings once a year, and they are essential to discuss progress and plans as well as harmonise the approaches between the various work packages. Seventy people participated, all of whom were partners or members of the Advisory Board. The input of the Advisory Board is very much appreciated, as they give excellent feedback from both practitioner’s and scientist’s perspectives. On 26 and 27 February 2013, REFORM will be organising a stakeholder workshop on hydromorphological degradation and river restoration in Brussels. More information about this workshop can be found in this newsletter.

Participants of the REFORM’s 2nd all-partner meeting. Photo: Tom Buijse.

In the coming six months, REFORM will deliver all of its interim results. These results are scheduled to become available in time to support the implementation of the second River Basin Management Plans. These are of course not the final results that REFORM will produce but in-depth reviews of existing studies. In our view, these compilations are highly important because too much important knowledge is unfortunately very difficult to trace.

We hope our contribution will help make this information more readily accessible. In this issue you will find a summary of one of these results: the review of hydromorphological and ecological assessment methods. The report is nearly ready and will be made available through the website. Other upcoming results will include reviews of the effects of pressures on hydromorphology, reviews of the ecological responses to hydromorphological degradation and restoration, and the preliminary version of our hydromorphological assessment framework. The REFORM wiki will be online in early 2013. This will be our open-access knowledge management system to make all our results easily accessible to a wide audience.

The Biebrza River and its floodplains. Photo: Tom Buijse.

As mentioned in our first newsletter, it is our ambition to interview a key person on river restoration and river studies in Europe for each newsletter. For this issue we have interviewed Mr. Bart Fokkens, Chair of the European River Restoration Centre (ECRR) and member of the International River Prize Committee. In 2013 the first European River Prize will be awarded during the European River Restoration Conference (Vienna, September 2013). Bart Fokkens is also the chair of the advisory board of the LIFE+ RESTORE project. This LIFE+ information and communication project brings together stakeholders involved in river restoration through numerous events. Toni Scarr, RESTORE’s project manager, introduces the project to you in more detail. The ECRR, LIFE+ RESTORE, and REFORM cooperate closely with each other to support knowledge development and exchange on river restoration across Europe. The last external contribution is made by Huib de Vriend, the former scientific director of Deltares and member of REFORM’s internal quality assurance. He introduces the ‘Building with Nature’ project. The project develops cost-effective and sustainable solutions using real-life eco-engineering approaches, exploiting synergy opportunities such as between flood protection and ecosystem restoration.

We continue to present case studies from REFORM. The case studies within REFORM are meant to compare assessment methods for the success of river restoration and to investigate the interaction between restored reaches and the wider catchment. The next case is the regulation and restoration of the River Regge in the Netherlands. The Regge is one of the major tributaries of the transboundary River Vecht. The final contribution in our 2nd newsletter is an impression of the 9th Ecohydraulics conference “Water is the source of everything” and its relevance for REFORM. The conference was organised in Vienna in September 2012 by our partner University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU).

Please let us know if you would like to use our website or newsletter to announce an event or present a relevant study or report. Contact me or any of the other REFORM partners if you would like to explore the opportunity to cooperate or have questions or recommendations.

On behalf of the REFORM team,


Tom Buijse

REFORM Coordinator

For further information: 

REFORM Stakeholder Workshop on River Restoration (Brussels, 26-27 February 2013)

On 26-27 February 2013, the REFORM project will hold a technical and interactive Stakeholder Workshop on River Restoration to Support Effective Catchment Management in Brussels.

The workshop will serve as a platform for consultation and exchange between REFORM scientists, European technical experts working on river degradation and restoration, and members of the WFD CIS WG A Ecological Status (ECOSTAT).

Specifically, the workshop is aimed at experts involved in river basin management planning and participants with a good technical understanding of the methods used in their respective countries to assess hydromorphological alterations, their ecological impacts, and restoration measures that can reverse or mitigate these. The event is planned for 120 participants.

At this event, first results of the REFORM project will be presented and invited experts can give their feedback during interactive breakout sessions on how REFORM can contribute to the next round of River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) by creating tools and approaches for managing the different types of rivers and pressures across Europe.

Keynote speeches will be given by the REFORM partners, the ECOSTAT leaders, the EEA, the WISER project, and the Life+RESTORE project, among others.

You will find the draft version of the workshop programme at:

The workshop will include presentations on the following:

  • An overview of the initial outcomes of REFORM to support the drafting of the 2nd River Basin Management Plans
  • Feedback on assessment methods and measures for river restoration in the 1st River Basin Management Plans
  • Methods for understanding the root causes of degradation and specifying the expected outcome of restoration
  • Reporting on tools for assessing the effectiveness of restoration for river basin planning considering project scale and catchment status
  • Discussion of a European multi-scale ecohydromorphological assessment framework (prioritisation of assessments in different scales)
  • Knowledge sharing on hydromorphological degradation and restoration 
  • Dissemination of information about related European research projects and activities and their relationship to REFORM

Breakout sessions for interactive discussion will address the following themes:

  • Highland/midland river systems
  • Lowland river systems
  • Mediterranean river systems
  • Unraveling the impact of hydromorphological pressures in multiple-pressure settings
  • Designing programmes of measures
  • Dealing with heavily modified water bodies

The breakout sessions will address REFORM’s outputs and plans for the next stages of the project and also reflect on relevant activities in the Member States and other European countries.

For further information about the workshop, please consult the workshop website ( or contact the workshop secretariat at:

For further information: 

Eleftheria Kampa

How to improve hydromorphological assessments of rivers and streams?

According to the Water Framework Directive (WFD), adequate assessment of stream and river hydromorphology requires the consideration of any modifications to flow regime, sediment transport, river morphology, lateral channel mobility, and river continuity. A large variety of hydromorphological assessment methods are available, with notable differences in terms of aims, spatial scales, and approaches and consequently with specific strengths and shortcomings. This review on eco-hydromorphological methods (REFORM deliverable 1.1) compares existing methods, identifies gaps in the applicability of methods, and recommends how to improve hydromorphological assessments.

Hydromorphological assessment includes the application of methods and procedures developed to characterise the hydromorphological conditions of streams and rivers and thereby classify its status. For the scope of this review, five broad methodological categories were distinguished:

(1)  Physical habitat assessment

(2)  Riparian habitat assessment

(3)  Morphological assessment

(4)  Hydrological regime alteration assessment

(5)  Longitudinal fish continuity assessment.

The general characteristics of a total of 139 methods (European and non-European) have been reviewed. Next, the analysis focussed on a selection of European methods (in total 22), i.e., those methods that have been formally approved or that are commonly used by European countries for the implementation of the WFD. Characteristics, recorded features, indicators, processes, and strengths of each method were revised, allowing for a comparative analysis of the different categories and of the various methods.

Spatial context, spatial scales and overlap between assessment method categories. Graph: Barbara Belletti, Università di Firenze.

Physical habitat methods, which are useful for characterising the range and diversity of habitats, have long been identified with hydromorphological assessment. However, it is now recognised that a characterisation of physical habitats alone, without a consideration of physical processes and morphological alterations, does not allow a sufficient understanding of the causal impact – response relations that are extremely important for the implementation of rehabilitation measures. Moreover, physical habitat assessment methods generally require very detailed site-specific data collection, and their application to large numbers of water bodies may thus be impracticable.

Total number of methods used by EU countries for the WFD divided into methodological categories. Graph: Barbara Belletti, Università di Firenze.

Consideration of physical processes presents one main gap in WFD implementation because most EU countries have selected physical habitat methods for their assessment of hydromorphology. At the same time the use of morphological assessment methods has significantly increased in the last few years. The suitability of methods should be considered in more detail for future hydromorphological assessment and monitoring. Herewith the integration of several components is recommended to ensure a comprehensive assessment.

REFORM recommends developing a framework for integrated hydromorphological analysis, where the morphological and hydrological components are key parts of the evaluation and classification of hydromorphological state and quality. Physical habitat and longitudinal fish continuity should represent an additional characterisation of the overall stream conditions at representative sites. Assessment of morphological processes and alterations should be included in an appropriate spatial hierarchical framework and scaling methodology, emphasizing relevant spatial units and temporal time scales, and identifying key controlling factors at each spatial scale as well as appropriate morphological indicators.

Practicing a morphological assessment method during a training course. Photo: Martina Bussettini, ISPRA.

For further information: 

Massimo Rinaldi, Università di Firenze
Barbara Belletti, Università di Firenze

European River Restoration and the ECRR - An Interview with Bart Fokkens (Dec. 2012)

Bart Fokkens is the Chairman of the European Centre for River Restoration, a pan-European network of national river restoration centres and other members bound by their common mission to promote and enhance ecological river restoration throughout the greater European region. As an associate expert, he is a technical advisor and ambassador for Wetlands International, an independent, global non-profit organisation working to sustain and restore wetlands and their resources for the benefit of people and biodiversity.

Bart worked for 40 years with the Ministry for Water Management in the Netherlands in various positions in the field of Land, Water and Wetland Management, often participating in international cooperation programs. Between 2002 and 2010, Bart was also president of the Dutch National Union of Provincial Nature Conservation Organisations, representing about 500 conservation sites covering a total of about 100,000 hectares. These sites are mainly wetlands and are managed by 12 member organisations, one from each of the Dutch provinces.

In 2009, Bart was awarded the Russian Medal “From Understanding to Unity” for having excelled in preventing international conflicts, strengthening international connections, drawing together diverse national cultures, and promoting ideals contributing to the environmental safety of the planet and the health of its inhabitants.

1. Please introduce yourself and the European Centre for River Restoration.

I worked for forty years at the Dutch Ministry of Water Management. Initially, due to my educational background, my work focused on land management, later shifting to river issues, and finally leading me to become one of the directors of the National Water Management Centre dealing with river and wetland restoration policies, planning, and implementation. In attaining this multidisciplinary perspective, I was able to bring aspects such as ecology, land management, and spatial planning into what was at the time a water management discussion that approached water features as isolated issues (e.g., quality, quantity). At different points in my career, I have had the chance to apply this integrated approach at the policy-making as well as implementation levels. In 2005 I became Chairman of the European Centre for River Restoration (ECRR) and, after retiring from my post in the ministry in 2010, I started to combine this with my work as an associate expert with Wetlands International.

The ECRR emerged in 1995 as an idea conceived by the Ministry of Water Management in the Netherlands together with the partners of a LIFE project (involving organisations from Denmark, Sweden, and the UK) that was commissioned to support river restoration demonstration projects in Europe. After surfacing, the organisation remained an unofficial structure for several years until it was formalised in 1999. Since its inception, Denmark, Italy, and the Netherlands (twice) have hosted the secretariat of the ECRR during different periods of three to four years.

The ECRR aims to enhance ecological river restoration in Europe by disseminating information on river restoration for its inclusion in integrated water resources management, provide access to a European network of individuals and organisations involved in river restoration, coordinate the support of National Centres for river restoration that facilitate strategic collaboration at the country level, and support the development of best practices.

The strength of the ECRR lies in the nature of its structure, which encompasses a diverse network that is active at the European level as well as the National Centres that extend the reach of the organisation to the country level.

2. What is your view on progress made in river restoration over the last 15 years? Do you see enough progress or too little progress? And, in your opinion, what are the major issues for river restoration currently in Europe?

I believe there has been substantial development in river restoration in the last 15 years or even more. It started off with the emergence of a number of small pilot projects in a few countries like Denmark and England and has gradually gained inertia to the point where we can now find large-scale projects taking place in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, for instance. It can also generally be said that, while in the past river restoration projects were commonly detached from other disciplines (e.g., flood protection, hydropower), we are now in a crucial period of shift that is leading to the adoption of more integrated approaches. For instance, while river restoration goes much further than supporting the implementation of policies like the WFD, the synergies between them has a high potential for mutual benefits.

The challenge posed by the current scarcity of financial resources requires that water resource management in general and river restoration in specific develop and implement more cost-effective solutions that minimise investments while maximising ecological outputs. In the past, management of costs was rather poor in part due to the lack of data and the relative availability of funding in comparison to today. While we are still transitioning to such cost-effective solutions, it must be noted that there is a change in perception taking place; there are studies and practical examples combined with a growing awareness of the need for best practices that are both cost-effective and successful in achieving the ecological objectives of restoration.

3. What should be the way forward for restoring European rivers? What key actions need to be prioritised?

The main action should be mainstreaming river restoration by integrating it into all key EU policies and policy fields, meaning we need to engage in policy dialogue with national governments and the EU. Cost-effective solutions, tools, and resources to support river restoration should be discussed in order to develop secure financing strategies in the different countries. Water quality is highly important but should be understood more as a precondition for ecological restoration.

River restoration construction works in the project “Improvement of the ecological state of the Órbigo river” by the Water Commission of the Duero Basin Authority in the provinces of Leon and Zamora in north-western Spain. Photo: Bart Fokkens

4. How can research contribute to addressing river restoration challenges? What do you consider to be the importance of EU-level projects such as REFORM and Life+RESTORE?

The importance of these projects is that they provide an interface between research, practical implementation, and policy development on river restoration. I believe that, while research on river restoration is well advanced, the knowledge gathered has failed to reach the end users. I see the REFORM project fulfilling this need. On the implementation front, Life+RESTORE will provide information on practical lessons learned from projects implemented in the last 10 years.

I find it positive that REFORM, Life+RESTORE, and the ECRR learn from each other, establish synergies, and combine their development in a way that is most effective, and I think we are already seeing the benefits of this close cooperation.

5. What are the present ambitions of the ECRR and how do you work together with National Centres for river restoration?

Both the ECRR and the National Centres should engage in outreach activities to promote river restoration in the different EU countries and to encourage participation at the local level. There is a special need for this in eastern and southern European countries; however, much work is still required in western and northern European countries as well. In the next five to ten years, we should be reaching out to the future practitioners, and for this our network of National Centres will play an important role. Recently, for administrative reasons, we have discussed the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the ECRR, but it should be mentioned that the involvement of different countries remains in our interest.

Although some may be under the impression, there is actually no official hierarchy between ECRR and the National Centres. We are all in one network but have different roles to play. ECRR engages in disseminating activities at the European level and between countries, establishing and moderating discussions with the EU and the national governments. The role of the National Centres is to undertake the activities within their respective country, allowing the organisation to expand its reach.

6. The ECRR recently organised a session on river restoration at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseilles. What were main insights from this event?

The main question brought forward in the session was whether new knowledge on river restoration should be developed. This issue was discussed already in 2011 by a group of 125 participants from 25 countries in preparation for the Forum in Marseilles. The conclusion reached was that, while there is always a need for new knowledge, the pressing requirement at the moment is to disseminate knowledge already available more effectively and increase the uptake of best practices.

Two main issues emerged from the session:

  • The relationship between river restoration, spatial planning, and land use planning has been under-recognised in the past and this should be acknowledged especially in urban areas.
  • Next to stakeholder involvement, public engagement and participation could be substantially improved in the future, promoting not only top-down but also bottom-up approaches.

The attendees at the Forum fully endorsed the conclusions reached, adding that the efforts should not stop at identifying these issues, but that a target action plan should be developed. This resulted in some river basin representatives expressing their interest in elaborating and executing the plan and sharing advances with one another. The river basins involved (in Armenia, France, UK, Spain, and potentially Ukraine or Turkey) hold such a range of conditions that valuable insights are sure to emerge from the exercise.

7. What is the scope of the upcoming European River Restoration Conference on 11-13 September 2013 in Vienna?

The European River Restoration Conference will focus on mainstreaming different policy fields and integrating river restoration in them. The discussion topics will include sustainable flood protection, rebalancing water use measures, environmental resilience, the enhancement of multiple use areas, land use, and land-use planning. In addition, the European River Prize (estimated at approximately 100,000€) will be awarded for the first time. In addition to promoting organisations with excellent achievements in river restoration, the Prize aims to enhance connections with the corporate sector. The winner of the European River Prize will also be shortlisted for the International River Prize. More information at:

 Bart Fokkens was interviewed on 29 October 2012 by Eleftheria Kampa (Leader of Dissemination and Stakeholder Involvement of REFORM, Ecologic Institute) and Gerardo Anzaldua (Researcher, Ecologic Institute).

For further information: 

Eleftheria Kampa
Gerardo Anzaldua

RESTORE: Recipes for Success

RESTORE is a project funded by the European LIFE+ programme aiming to encourage the restoration of European rivers towards a more natural state.

Most rivers in Europe have been modified to serve human needs and wants, with varying levels of impact. RESTORE is a partnership for sharing knowledge and promoting best practice in river restoration.

River restoration refers to a large variety of ecological, physical, spatial, and management measures and practices that aim to restore the natural state and functioning of the river system in support of biodiversity, recreation, flood management, and riverine landscapes. By restoring natural conditions, river restoration improves the resilience of the river systems and provides the framework for the sustainable multifunctional use of estuaries, rivers, and streams. River restoration is an integral part of sustainable water management and directly supports the aims of the European Water Framework Directive in addition to national and regional water management policies.

RESTORE is a partnership of six organisations across Europe that is developing an information-sharing network for policy makers, river basin planners, and a wide range of practitioners and experts across Europe. We are disseminating this information through events, seminars, a website, and our RiverWiki.

We are developing our website with the aim of creating a central repository of information on European river restoration. This is being developed in cooperation with the European Centre for River Restoration, and we will look to them to host our information in the future. We would gratefully receive any comments you have on the website:  

We have held a number of River Restoration Events, where some of the most cutting-edge and innovative ways of achieving river restoration have been discussed. If you have not been able to attend any of these events, you can find out more about them and view the presentations on the events page of our website.

A new side channel under construction on the River Danube. Building a new channel to bypass obstructions in the main channel enables migration for all animals. Some fish bypass channels only allow certain species of fish to move up and downstream. Photo: SYKE.

  • We discussed high energy rivers at workshops in Scotland and Iceland.
  • Restoring London’s Rivers breakfast discussion with planners, architects, and engineers.  The key messages include that effective river restoration can improve natural habitats for wildlife and provide space for human recreation. Designed imaginatively, they can also even help to reduce crime and the fear of crime, thereby contributing to a higher quality of life for all. To view the slides see our website and slideshare site.







New bypass channel constructed at Ålgårda. Photo: SYKE.

  • We have visited informative case studies on our field tripsin Poland, Italy, Finland, UK, France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden (including Ålgårdain the Adjacent photo), and the Czech Republic. All case studies have been uploaded onto our RiverWiki.
  • Our event at the River Restoration Conference in Nottingham engendered great discussions, including one entitled ‘It ain’t all about the environment:’ the UK's groundbreaking National Ecosystem Assessment was debated by Dr. Mark Everard of the Environment Agency, who argued that river restoration was no longer a ‘nice to have’ measure but can have beneficial impacts on house values, social inclusion, and a host of other public benefits, such as improved flood management.  Additionally, he made clear that restoration is a crucial element in addressing degraded river environments that disproportionately affect the poor. Practical information on making the most of natural resources can be found here: What nature can do for you.
  • The RESTORE project will end at our international conference in Vienna in September 2013. There will also be a REFORM side-event as part of the conference. Please go to for more information.

Our RiverWIKI is live at:

RiverWiki is a tool for sharing best practices knowledge and the collation of information about river restoration across Europe. It is an interactive source of information that works in a similar way to Wikipedia.  You can search for river restoration projects that are planned or already implemented within Europe. You can upload or search for case studies using parameters such as cost, substrate, land-use, or hydropower. Practitioners are invited to contribute river restoration case studies, good practice, and research to the database.

Calling all planners! Help wanted with our guide

The RESTORE team is also busily writing a guide about river restoration for spatial planners and developers who do not have a background in this subject. It will be a practical introduction of our approach and will explain why it is an important part of development, the benefits of carrying our river restoration, and how to get the best results. 

If you are a planner or developer, we would love to have your help in shaping this guide. If you'd like to get involved please contact us:


For further information: 

Toni Scarr, RESTORE Project Manager

Building with Nature

Until now, engineering and nature restoration have not always been each other's allies. The EcoShape consortium (, consisting of private parties, government institutions, and research institutes in the Netherlands, thinks it is time to change this. We believe it is possible to apply eco-engineering principles more widely and to develop water-related infrastructures that draw on the natural environment, are in line with the natural system, make use of this system’s dynamics and to find novel ways to manage water resources. Though not identical, eco-engineering and nature restoration are akin.

EcoShape is about to complete Building with Nature (BwN), a 5-year, 30 million € national innovation programme. Although it includes 19 PhD projects to fill important knowledge gaps, its primary focus is on learning by doing in a number of real-life pilot projects and on translating the knowledge gathered and the lessons learned into guidelines for practical use. Examples of pilot projects are the Delfland Sand Engine, a 20 million m³ concentrated sand nourishment on the Holland coast, and the use of live oyster reefs on a man-made substrate of oyster shells to protect the intertidal shoals in the Eastern Scheldt from further erosion. The most important result is a wiki-based user guideline, which also includes a portfolio of examples, user tools, tutorials, knowledge pages, and BwN-type solution components. It is accessible via the above website.  A booklet with showcases of real-life BwN pilots, launched during the final BwN-symposium in Rotterdam last November, can be downloaded from the website.

BwN is a national programme, but it ties in and actively collaborates with a number of international developments, such as PIANC’s Working with Nature initiative, a concept also adopted by the European Commission, and the Engineering with Nature initiative of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Although BwN presently focuses on sea, estuary and lake shores in the Netherlands and in southeast Asia, there are many parallels with REFORM. An open interdisciplinary collaboration between engineers, natural scientists and social scientists is instrumental to make these projects a success  (and takes time, dedication, and energy to develop!). Project monitoring and assessment are important issues and so are the analysis and prediction/projection of natural, administrative, and social system behaviour, ecosystem services, cost-benefit analyses, approaches to risks and uncertainties, stakeholder processes, and the production of user-oriented tools and guidelines.

We are now in the process of preparing a follow-up BwN-programme, shifting focus from 'showing that it works' to 'making it happen', which means even more emphasis on how we can get our ideas implemented in the processes and procedures that lead to a project taking shape and being realised. This new programme, envisaged for 2013-2017, may include a fluvial component, which would create  even more possible links with river restoration and research projects such as REFORM. Building with Nature has an open information policy, so there is ample opportunity to share knowledge, tools and lessons learned with other projects, including international river restoration initiatives such as the ECRR, LIFE+ RESTORE and REFORM.

An oyster reef, naturally formed on an artificially placed substrate of oyster shells, protects the shoal behind it from erosion, thus maintaining a shallow wave-attenuating foreshore in front of a dike in the eastern Scheldt estuary. Photo: Tom Ysebaert, Imares.

The Delfland Sand Engine 15 months after completion: natural forces are distributing the sand along the shore; a large part of it will end up on the beach and in the dunes, thus feeding this eroding coast. Photo: Joop van Houdt.

For further information: 

Huib de Vriend, Director of EcoShape

The River Regge (the Netherlands): from meandering river to canal and back

The rivers Regge, Dinkel and Dommel are the case study sites for REFORM in the Netherlands. The Regge has been heavily regulated during the 19th and 20th century. Since 2000 a river restoration plan is being implemented step by step.

The Channelised River Regge. Photo: Piet Verdonschot

The river Regge basin is part of the much larger transboundary River Vecht basin situated in Germany and the Netherlands. Until 1848 the river Regge (The Netherlands) was a free and widely meandering lowland river. From 1848-1879 the first meanders were cut off to facilitate shipping, and in the periods 1894-1914 and 1929-1935 the main course of the Regge itself was channelized. Following that, until the 1950s further straightening took place on the main river, and between 1960 and 1980 most side streams were channelized for agricultural development and flood control. The previously meandering river changed and became a canal embedded in narrow shores, the riparian zone cleared and was subsequently surrounded by maintenance paths. In the terms of the Water Framework Directive the Regge is a “Heavily Modified Water Body.”

The river Regge basin encompasses about 841 km2 and is situated in between an eastern and a western glacial hill ridge. The eastern hill ridge feeds a number of small upper courses. The Regge descends from about 50 m to only a few meters above sea level. The basin can be divided in two areas: the upstream fringe and the remainder of the catchment.

The Regge basin has between 700,000 and 800,000 inhabitants, most of which live in the upstream fringe of the basin where there is a ‘line’ of cities (15% of the basin is urban).



Hill ridges east and west of the river Regge valley. Photo: Piet Verdonschot

The remainder of the basin has an increasingly interwoven combination of agriculture (61%), recreation and tourism, villages, and both wet and dry near-natural undeveloped areas (24%). There are about 3,500 farms (mainly cattle ranching on grassland, but also pig and arable farming). To sustain agricultural activities, the groundwater is maintained at least minus 80 cm below the surface level and in urban areas at least 150 cm below. Agriculture extracts more than 20-25 million cubic meters of groundwater while industry uses about 1 million and drinking water companies about 50 million cubic meters per year. In very dry periods the greater part of the discharge (up to 60%) in certain streams is in fact sewage plant effluent produced by the large urban areas. The original hard wood forests were felled in the 19th century, and the extensive peat reserves were exploited to supply households and industries with fuel. Only small parts of peat land still remain, and much of the present forest in the Regge basin was planted in the early 20th century. More than 95% of all streams are channelised.

River Regge basin. Left: year 1660; Middle 2000; Right 2025. Photo: Piet Verdonschot

Restoring the Regge

In 1998 the Waterboard of Regge and Dinkel, the Government Service for Land and Water Management (Dienst Landelijk Gebied) and the Province of Overijssel together presented the Regge Vision. Ideas for flood prevention and improving the ecological status of the river Regge were outlined thereby starting the so-called Regge Restoration project. The main aim is to create a dynamic and resilient river system to improve water quality and encourage natural flood protection. The use of parts of the river valley for water retention (new inundation zones) allows for the development of ‘new’ natural river floodplain areas, which also serve to connect different isolated nature reserves. Better opportunities for farming, recreation and urban development can also be secured as a result. The first restoration projects began in 2000.

River Regge restoration. Left: connected meander; Right: aerial view. Photo: Piet Verdonschot

Regge as research area for FP7 projects REFRESH and REFORM

As part of the FP7 project REFRESH, some shaded and unshaded streams within the catchment were surveyed for more than one year to establish temperature-shading relations along the European Atlantic coast. Within REFORM the river Regge itself is part of the WP4 paired catchments study. The case Regge targets a river restoration measure, connecting former meanders and giving space for flooding, and will be compared to two other comparable catchments with different restoration measures: the river Dinkel, another tributary of the River Vecht, which is near-natural and the restoration only consisted of bank improvement and the river Dommel in the south of the Netherlands where restoration focused on remeandering.

For further information: 

Piet Verdonschot

REFORM Participation at the Ecohydraulics Symposium

The 9th International Symposium on Ecohydraulics was organized at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria, and took place on 17-21 September 2012. The 9th Symposium theme was "Water is the origin of everything" (Thales of Milet, 560 A.D.) and its main objectives focused on the central role of Ecohydraulics in:

a)    the interrelationship between water and the environment

b)    the assessment of human induced environmental impact

c)    the development of water management strategies harmonizing economic as well as ecological requirements.

International Symposia on Ecohydraulics have taken place since 1994 in nine cities all around the world. Scientists, who are today participating in REFORM, have been among the organisers of all these symposia. The symposium takes place every two years, assembling scientists, engineers, decision makers, and exhibitors from different parts of the World and is one of the activities of the IAHR ( The International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR) is a worldwide independent organisation of engineers and water specialists working in fields related to the hydro-environmental sciences and their practical application.

At this year’s symposium, REFORM participants played key roles: the Local Organizing Committee was chaired by Helmut Mader while Stefan Schmutz and Peter Mayr were organising members. Additionally, the International Scientific Committee included Ian Cowx, Diego Garcia de Jalon, Harm Duel, Mike Dunbar, Nikolai Friberg, and Daniel Hering.

Keynote speakers were:

  • Birgit Vogel: Large River Basins and their Applied Management - Feasible or Not?
  • Otto Pirker: Re-establishing river continuity from an end users perspective
  • Atle Harby: Eco-hydraulic research within the Centre for Environmental Design of Renewable Energy
  • Claudio Meier: How Do Riparian Poplars and Willows really Establish along Gravel-Bed Rivers?

All topics presented at the symposium were highly relevant in the context of hydromorphological degradation and restoration of rivers. There were four sessions dedicated to Habitat Modeling; three sessions to Aquatic Ecology, River Restoration, Fish Migration and to Hydro Peaking; and two sessions to Flow Regime Alteration, Minimum Flow and to Upstream Fish Passage. Other sessions were dedicated to Sediment Flow, Sediment Interactions on Habitats, Aquatic Continuum, Effects of Global Climate Change, Fish Screening, Downstream Fish MigrationWetland and Estuary Restoration, Water Management in Wetlands and Estuary, Solute and Nutrient Transport, High Technology on Ecohydraulics and, of course, REFORM.

At least 24 REFORM participants were authors of the presented papers at the Symposium. The REFORM special session was chaired by Peter Mayr and included a presentation of the REFORM project ‘Restoring Rivers for Effective Catchment Management.’ Other presentations at this session were dedicated to Macroinvertebrate Indicators of Hydromorphological Degradation, Flow Regime Characterization of Temporary Streams, Hydro-Morphological Pressures along European Large Rivers, and Flow Regulation Effects on Fish Resilience.


For further information: 

Nikolai Friberg
Diego García de Jalón