On the agenda were a number of topical issues such as water as a natural hazard, climate change, drinking water supply, hydropower, and the Ministry of Life’s (BMLFUW) internet water platform for the young generation, Generation Blue.
The morning session started off with introductory presentations by Environment Minister Josef Pröll, Provincial Councillor Josef Plank, ÖVGW Vice President Harald Schneider, and others. In the afternoon, workshops were organised for the more than 250 participants, during which several hot topics were discussed.
Discussion naturally centred on flood management as the symposium happened to coincide with a series of flood events largely affecting the March and Thaya rivers in the region. Environment Minister Josef Pröll and the participating experts agreed that riverbed expansion programmes and flood protection measures are to be viewed in the light of solidarity. Generally, however, the population also needs to accept that a residual risk cannot be ruled out.
In view of the steady increase in electricity consumption also in Austria and the Kyoto climate protection targets, the water power issue was debated with particular enthusiasm. Experts finally agreed that Austria would continue to rely on water power, but that eco-friendly and intelligent multi-purpose facilities were required which, apart from producing electricity, also contribute to flood protection and recreational use.
Major consensus was reached in the area of drinking water supply. Participants agreed on the following: harmonisation of national groundwater protection policies at European level must be achieved. Water supply in Austria is still regarded as a public-sector service and competencies must therefore remain at the level of local authorities. Compulsory tender advertisements for public services continue to remain unacceptable. These positions will have to be formulated and defended in Brussels through permanent lobbying.
(Source: aqua press Int. 2/2006)