The planning processes for nature and water in the Eifel-Rur region (as for the rest of North-Rhine Westphalia) have a long tradition of collaborative approaches leading to voluntary implementation of actions. Since at least the early 1990s this has been a widespread approach to implementing initiatives in different realms, such as nature conservation, biodiversity protection, and water management. DROP research shows clearly both the benefits of this approach in the region, as well as bottlenecks currently being encountered in the use of this approach.
Interviewees report very constructive discussion processes, which allow actors to understand the requirements of other groups and to identify acceptable solutions, as well as being the basis for collaborative relationships. However, it would seem that the lack of significant political drive behind some of the processes (e.g. the WFD requirements being seen as only due in 2027) have meant that discussions on certain points have become entrenched. What is at stake in some of these discussions would be less the way to implement measures addressing a certain requirement, but rather the requirement itself – i.e. the discussions centre on where (or what!) the goalposts are. Thus the collaborative, somewhat hands-off approach used by authorities could be seen as reaching its limits in this case study, when the questions being negotiated address key interests of stakeholders: security of water supply (and thus of economic production) and economic costs of measures, to name two examples. Whereas actors agree that the approach used delivers results, it is a widespread opinion that the processes are too slow. This could be due to the lack of clear process milestones given by long-term implementation processes.
On the downstream part of the Vilaine river, except maybe the well-known drought in 1976, no water stress period seems to have already affected significantly local economic activities. Furthermore, Arzal-Camoël dam represents a huge freshwater reserve to answer to possible drought events. Moreover, in the territory of this lower part of the river drought is not considered as an issue at short or medium time scales for dam managers. Thus drought local governance does not really differ from the national drought plans.
Then, local governance of the downstream of the Vilaine is dedicated to the management of the dam. The major result of this governance is the priority given by all stakeholders to the production of domestic water. Compromises are found for water level in the dam and associated territories as with the wetlands above the dam. Water users agree even if no water use is optimized. The capacity to base decision on a consensus reveals the efficiency of the local water governance.
However, the current multi-functionality of the management of the water of the dam (drinking water production, yachting, tourism, fishing, hunting, biodiversity protection) hides the difference of vulnerability of uses to drought event. While drinking water is the priority, other uses have no management plan in case of drought due to climate change impacts while adaptation measures at the entire catchment scale are described for low flows. Also, inside the Vilaine catchment, the upper part is farmed with irrigated crops, and are areas designated as potentially vulnerable to water scarcity.
In this context and following the required integrated water management at the entire catchment scale, it remains unclear from the DROP governance team analysis, why climate change and its related drought issues are not considered by local water managers, as confirmed by the fact that climate change impacts in the region has never been treated during the catchment water authority commissions.