In Sweden, engagement in water issues at all levels provides the proper knowledge to address relevant issues.
Our country is home to over 26,000 lakes and rivers, streams and ponds. That’s one-fifth of all water bodies in Europe. This means quite a challenge for managing inland waters nationwide.
In 2000, the EU adopted the Water Framework Directive with the goal of reaching a good status in both quality and quantity for all of Europe’s waters.
This directive ensures that all countries perform water assessments in a similar fashion thereby producing comparable results. But the Directive has brought new ways of thinking about and addressing water issues.
We are the regulatory and guiding authority for the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive. We also coordinate Sweden's five water district authorities which in turn oversee the work carried out by the counties within their districts.
We participate at the EU level and report on the country’s progress.
We also try to harmonize our cross-border efforts, such as those with Norway and Finland with which we share river basins.
There is an important civic engagement in water issues, primarily through the water councils. These independently-organized forums, each formed around a drainage area, comprise of community members engaged in keeping their local waters healthy along with the participation of relevant authorities.
The aim of the water councils is to discuss efforts, incorporate local knowledge, and, in the end, obtain consensus of the measures to be taken. Water councils offer up detailed knowledge that would otherwise be difficult for national agencies to collect.
The interaction between local expertise and the government is a positive model for water management. It’s a big challenge to ensure that all relevant information trickles down from the EU to the local levels and back.
However, the end result will contribute to harmonized efforts at all levels and a better water environment.