Define “headwaters” please?

It is forgotten only too often that a healthy aquatic ecosystem in any watershed’s most upper sections is a prerequisite for the condition in any of its lower parts. In many a conservation effort our rivers’ headwaters tend to be overlooked as there hardly seems to be any gain or “return on investment” which would justify spending time and money for their conservancy. In this respect CTCF has been addressed to take the lead in a pan-European initiative to safeguard headwater basins in Europe, and the flora and fauna they comprise. We decided to start with an assessment of the current legal framework, as it is believed that this may not cover all needs for protecting the interests of all stakeholders involved, whether mineral, vegetable, animal, or human. This framework is not only incredibly complex, also it shows internal differences and contradictions since the purposes of the respective rules and regulations vary according to the “use” of the water and the “users” involved.

In September René Beaumont already put some questions concerning the possible need for a supplementary protection regime for the utmost vulnerable and valuable headwater ecosystems to the Directorate General of Environment in Brussels. During brainstorm sessions over the past weeks we thoroughly went into them and the legal aspects thereof. We also reviewed all suggestions made for improvements in order to maybe come to a more adequate regime. The main challenge was to phrase a sound definition of what is actually meant with “headwaters”. Preferably such definition should be viewed from the perspective of the prevailing EU Directives. We think we managed to do so. Once our respective lawyers have checked our set-up to the fullest, we shall publish the outcome by means of a charter. From there onwards we shall consider and prepare further steps, at whatever level.

The initiators:

AEMS Rios con Vida (Spain)
Continental Trout Conservation Fund (Belgium)
Fonds pour la conservation des Rivières Sauvages (France)
Wild Trout Trust (United Kingdom)
World Fish Migration Foundation (The Netherlands)
WWF (Austria)