The Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive determine the future of rivers in Austria. Their implementation has led to 2 separate national programmes of measures. These are laid down in the RBMP (River Basin Management Plan) and the FRMP (Flood Risk Management Plan) which aim to achieve the specific objectives of each directive. The contents and aims of both are different and sometimes even contradictory. Article 9 of the FD explicitly states that Member States shall take appropriate steps to coordinate the application of the FD and WFD, focusing on opportunities to improve efficiency, exchange information and achieve common synergies and benefits with respect to the environmental objectives stemming from the WFD. In Austria, both programmes of measures are currently coordinated with each other at national level. However challenges exist to coordinate the planningprocesses at regional level or river basins level. The foremost problem is that flood control measures of the past, with their often hydro-morphological alterations, are todays most pressing threat to the ecological aims of the WFD; 80% of the Areas of Potential Significant Flood Risk miss the WFD requirements. The responsible Provincial Water Engineering Administrations (Wasserbauverwaltungen) and the Water Management Planning Bodies (Wasserwirtschaftliche Planungsorgane) face the challenge of coordinating and harmonising the national requirements from the FRMP and the RBMP for river basins on both regional and multi-regional level as efficiently and adequately as possible. Coordinating water protection measures (as set down in the RBMP) with those for the protection of people from water-related hazards (as set down in the FRMP) is extraordinarily challenging in Austria.
The overall objective of the LIFE IP IRIS AUSTRIA project is to elaborate, test and successfully implement the River Development and Risk Management Concepts (GE-RMs) which address the challenge of streamlining flood protection according to the FD and ecological river restoration as required in the WFD. GE-RMs will be tested in selected pilot regions as an integrative planning instrument to implement national plans in accordance with EU environmental policies (RBMP and FRMP). The project is expected to have a strong policy impact, because in the medium to long term GE-RMs will be developed for all relevant rivers in Austria. The GE-RM planning instrument will be applied to7 pilot regions. The project will develop interdisciplinary, cross-border concepts for measures, including a priority ranking of the individual measures in accordance with the various objectives of the pilot regions (RBMP, FRMP, Natura 2000, Austrian Floodplain Strategy etc.). Another objective is to establish integrated monitoring following implementation of these river development measures. LIFE IP IRIS AUSTRIA aims to develop and test new common indicators which can evaluate the effects of combined measures in a holistic way. Among other purposes, these would help improve the ecological situation in connection with flood protection and the impact on ecosystem services. The expected results of the LIFE IP IRIS project comprise: