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Segura River wins 2016 IRF European Riverprize!

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"I sincerely would like to thank the International RiverFoundation for an award that reinforces our commitment to continue working in the restoration of the Segura River. The European Riverprize also encourages us to join the IRF's admirable international task of river recovery and offer our experience with the hope of helping others"

                                   - Miguel-Angel Rodenas, President, Segura RIver Basin Authority


The Segura River of Spain has been named the winner of the 2016 European Riverprize.


Mr Miguel-Angel Rodenas, President of the Segura River Basin Authority, accepted the award at a gala dinner held at Vienna City Hall on Thursday 3 March, recognising the river’s extraordinary return to health following extensive restoration efforts over the past thirty years.

The Segura River Project has successfully restored the health of the river, with advanced wastewater schemes now supplying reclaimed water to the agriculture industry which rapidly boomed after Spain became a member of the European Union. This once polluted and water-stressed river in Europe’s driest basin has been transformed from an exposed sewer to a healthy, vibrant river, home to otter, migratory birds, and other flora and fauna, and the reuse of irrigation water has allowed increased agricultural, leisure and recreational activities.

Mr Bart Fokkens, Chair of the IRF European Riverprize judging panel and Chair of the European Centre for River Restoration, congratulated those who contributed to reviving the Segura River and praised their holistic approach.

“The Segura river management is a great example of an integrated approach with environmental, social and economic restoration activities. The established management framework includes a solid science foundation and shared governance, while the catchment management planning process was ahead of the European legislation requirement. These demonstrated innovations created almost a miracle under the scorching sun of Spain!”


Read the full media release



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2016 European Riverprize Finalists

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Aragon River, Spain

Until the twentieth century, the Aragon river, with its tributary Arga, was a meandering river that generated many complex oxbow lakes.  However, flood risk in the basin led to the introduction of multiple defensive structures and intensive river dredging in an attempt to mitigate flood effects. Unfortunately, these activities caused a significant reduction in natural habitats along the river and, consequently, biodiversity plummeted.

Together with the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Environment and the European Commission, the Regional Government of Navarra—through several LIFE projects and community partners—has spent more than a decade working to reverse these impacts and restore habitat for local flora and fauna. The project has been accompanied by a process of social participation in a territory where the high presence of flood risk led to popular support for defence mechanisms.

Between February and December 2014, on-ground works were undertaken over 32 hectares and 2.5 kilometres of river. 985 metres of riprap were eliminated, 1,342 metres of dikes were removed, 200,000 cubic meters of gravel and silt were reintroduced to the river bed, the original shape of the river was reformed, and wetlands were reconstructed. Today, The Aragon River is home to a typical mediterranean river forest as well as species like otter, European turtle, night heron, and the European mink, considered one of the planet's most threatened mammals. 



Segura River, Spain

In 1986, Spain became a member of the European Union. This milestone marked an increase in the production of agriculture and canned food and, consequently, a rise in wastewater discharges and lack of water. As a result, the already water-stressed Segura River in Europe’s driest basin became an exposed sewer.

The Segura River Project was developed by the Murcia Government’s Regional Water Department, in partnership with the Segura River Authority and town councils in the region, to restore the health of the Segura River and to supply reclaimed water to the booming agriculture industry.
Between 2001 and 2010, 100 water treatment plants and 350 kilometres of wastewater collection systems were built. In addition, a wastewater reclamation levy was established to finance the operation, maintenance and monitoring of these systems, applying the principle “the polluter pays”.

A major breakthrough was achieved in 2003 when the quality of the Segura’s water started improving. Since 2010, pollution has been unnoticeable, leading to the recovery of fauna and flora including increased otter population in parts of the river they had once abandoned. Birds now rest at two recovered wetland areas recognised by the Ramsar Convention, during their migration between Europe and Africa. In addition, around 110 million m3 of reclaimed water is reused annually for agriculture in the region.


River Trent, UK

Historically, the River Trent was heavily engineered into a single, straight and deep watercourse, leaving a ‘fossilised’ river bereft of natural features and lacking in quality habitat. Staffordshire Wildlife Trust implemented the Central Rivers Initiative—a multi-partner program with local stakeholders including councils, businesses, universities, consultancies and NGOs—to restore functional habitats along the River Trent, with a recent focus on a 6km stretch of the river through the Catton Estate and Croxall Lakes.

Works included increasing the channel width to allow shallows to form, re-grading banks, lowering the floodplain, adding gravels, re-connecting backwaters, introducing large woody debris, forming islands using living willow root wads, and wider woodland planting . It also included a unique attempt to re-anastomose (“re-connect”) the watercourse through Croxall Lakes.

These exhaustive works have resulted in a major increase in in-channel and floodplain habitat diversity and availability, and an increase in species within these habitats. By 2050, the Trust envisions the Trent River and its surrounds becoming one of Britain’s greatest wetlands once again, providing an artery for wildlife and flowing from source to sea in an attractive, multi-functional, inspiring and valued landscape.

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About the IRF European Riverprize

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The European Riverprize celebrates successful approaches that have overcome the challenges to river restoration, ecosystem health, water quality and climate change within the social and political context of the European continent.


Applications are assessed based on a documented river management framework, evidence of social and economic gains, an integrated approach to river management, long-term vision and demonstrated, outstanding achievements in river ecology. The 2015 European winner will automatically qualify for the next round of the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize.

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The IRF is forming a select group of partners to support and develop the European Riverprize in addition to associated activities.


Businesses, Governments, Foundations and other interested parties willing to support the European Riverprize are being sought after to:

  • Be a partner in the IRF European Riverprize
  • Participate in the European Riverprize Gala Dinner
  • Participate in the European River Symposium

We are also seeking partners and participants in:

  • Twinning activities associated with the European Riverprize
  • Supporting and jointly developing other activities of benefit to the promotion and realisation of river restoration and protection.
  • Assisting to build support for the communication of the restoration and protection of river basins.

To learn more, please email info@riverfoundation.org.au.

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European Riverprize Alumni

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River Mur, Austria
freiland Environmental Consulting Civil Engineers & Office of the Styrian Government - Department 14
Danube River, Transnational Europe
Danube River Network of Protected Areas
Danube River, Slovakia
Regional Association for Natural Conservation and Sustainable Development
River Rhine, All countries in catchment
International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine
Orbigo River, Spain
Duero River Basin Authority
Upper Drau, Austria
Regional Government of Carinthia, Department 8
Mura-Drava-Danube, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia
WWF Danube Carpathian Programme
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European Riverprize Winners

European Riverprize Winners

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*please click map to enlarge

European Riverprize Finalists

European Riverprize Finalists

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*please click map to enlarge

Current Judging Panel

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The International RiverFoundation sincerely thanks our past and present judges for contributing their time and expertise!


Mr Bart Fokkens - Judging Panel Chair

Chairman, European Centre for River Restoration (Netherlands)

Mr Bart Fokkens - Judging Panel Chair

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Bart Fokkens is the Chairman of the European Centre for River Restoration, a Pan – European network of national river restoration centres and other members bound by their common mission to promote and enhance ecological river restoration throughout the greater European region.


The ECRR was established in the mid nineties with Bart Fokkens being one of the founders. In 2005 he became the chairman of the ECRR.Bart worked for 40 years with the Ministry for Water Management in The Netherlands in different positions in the field of Land, Water and Wetland Management.


Between 2002 and 2010, Bart was also president of the Dutch National Union of Provincial Nature Conservation Organisations, with about 500 conservation sites covering a total of ca. 100.000 ha, mainly wetlands, managed by 12 member organisations, each of them from one of the Dutch provinces.


In 2007, Bart was awarded with the Russian Medal “From Understanding to Unity” for having excelled in promoting ideals contributing to the environmental safety of the planet and health of its inhabitants, preventing international conflicts, strengthening international connections and drawing together diverse national cultures.


In 1999 he was awarded to Knight of the 5th degree in the Order of Oranje Nassau in the Netherlands. And since 2005 he is a Chamberlain of her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands.

Mr Alastair Driver

National Conservation Manager, Environment Agency (UK)

Mr Alastair Driver

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Alastair Driver has the honour of inclusion in Who’s Who for “distinction and influence” in the field of environmental conservation and is one of the most experienced river and wetland conservationists in the UK, with a growing international reputation in the field of catchment management.


He became the first ever Conservation Officer for the Thames catchment in 1984, a role that he held for 18 years and since 2002 he has been the  National Biodiversity Manager for the Environment Agency covering England and Wales.


He is also an Ambassador for the IRF, a Biodiversity Advisor for the Commonwealth Secretariat, a Nature Conservation Panel member for the National Trust, a Council member of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and a Fellow of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.


The personal highlight of his career to date was achieved when he successfully spear-headed the winning Thames bid for the $350,000 Theiss International Riverprize in 2010.

Dr. Klement Tockner

Director, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) (Germany)

Dr. Klement Tockner

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Klement Tockner (Professor, PhD, m) is Director of IGB, full Professor for Aquatic Ecology at the Freie University Berlin, Titular Professor at ETH Zürich, and Adjunct Senior Scientist at EAWAG (CH).


He has special expertise on freshwater biodiversity and ecology. He has published more than 130 scientific papers including 60+ ISI papers.


Klement Tockner has successfully managed large inter- and transdisciplinary projects (e.g. Tagliamento project, European Catchment Data Base).


He was WP leader of the EU-project tempQsim, he is involved in the current project MIRAGE, and he is the coordinator of FloodPlainEvolution, a MarieCurie International Incoming Fellowship.

Dr Danka Thalmeinerova

Senior Knowledge Management Officer - Global Water Partnership (Sweden)

Dr Danka Thalmeinerova

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Danka Thalmeinerova is a water expert who worked with the Slovak Ministry of Environment. She was involved in projects related to EU approximation, water policy and legislative development, IPPC implementation, international treaty implementation and water pricing. She also led a team for several EU and UNDP/GEF-funded projects in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) on implementing the EU  Water Framework Directive. She is a member of the Association of Waste Water Experts in Slovakia.


She was also the Head of international Environmental Policy Program of Academia Istropolitana Nova and was invited as a guest lecturer in water related education courses in Brandenburg Technical University, Cottbus, Germany, the Economic University Bratislava, and Trencin University in Slovakia. For five years she was project manager for a Harvard University USAID project on environmental economics and policy in CEE. 


Since 2008, she is a Senior Knowledge Management Officer at the Global Water Partnership (GWP), promoting and facilitating a culture of knowledge sharing and technical support across the GWP Network. One of her responsibilities is to facilitate GWP knowledge production.

Mr Ben van de Wetering

Owner, AquAdvisor (Netherlands)

Mr Ben van de Wetering

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Following his graduation as chemical engineer at the Technical University Enschede in the Netherlands in 1975, Ben van de Wetering started his career at the National Institute for Public Water Supply, followed by several positions at the National Institute for Inland Water Management and Waste Water Treatment. At this institute, he started his international career in 1984 as national delegate in various international organisations. In 1995, he was appointed as Executive Secretary of the OSPAR Commission on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic. In the period 2001-2005 he was one of the lead-authors at the European Commission for developing the European Marine Strategy Directive. In 2007 he was appointed as Secretary General of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine. Since his retirement in April 2015 he is working as private consultant providing advice for water management.


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