International River Committees

International River Committees

National and international boundaries do not apply to water. For example, water from 9 different states flows into the North Sea via the Rhine river. The complexity lies in the fact that before the water reaches the sea, it is used in various ways.

Different interests in use and protection are in competition and must be balanced according to river management principles across the entire watershed. To ensure effective river management, we work closely with other countries in the catchment area. There are a number of partnerships within which this takes place.

The Rhine

National and international boundaries do not apply to water. For example, water from 9 different states flow into the North Sea via the Rhine. The complexity lies in the fact that before the water reaches the sea, it is used in various ways. Different interests in use and protection are in competition and must be balanced according to river management principles for the entire watershed. Together with all the Rhine riparian states involved, Rijkswaterstaat provides resources for making sure the water is safe and risk-free for future generations.

Like many rivers, the Rhine is facing climate change effects, especially following the very hot, dry summers we have had over the last 3 years. A current example of what cooperation can lead to is the Rhine salmon programme. By the end of 2016, more than 8,000 adult salmon were proved to have migrated upstream in the Rhine to reproduce. This raises hopes that almost stable wild salmon populations may be achieved in the Rhine system in the coming years.

Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR)

Dating back to the Congress of Vienna (1815), the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine is the oldest international organisation in modern history. Its legal foundation is the Revised Convention for Navigation on the Rhine, referred to as the Mannheim Document, of 17 October 1868.

The Central Commission is an up-to-date international institution with an administration that enables it to address effectively all the issues concerning inland navigation. It promotes the development of close cooperation with the other international organisations working in the field of European transport policy and with non-governmental organisations active in the field of inland navigation.

International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR)

All the countries through which the Rhine flows work together in the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) on the sustainable development of the Rhine and its flood plains and on ensuring that all waters in the river basin are in good condition. In the ICPR, Rijkswaterstaat works together with its partners and makes cooperation arrangements on aspects such as data, modelling and knowledge, as well as prediction products for water distribution.

The 16th Conference of Rhine Ministers took place in Amsterdam on the 13th February 2020. The ministers in charge of water protection in the Rhine catchment area and the representative of the European Union assessed the achievements of the expiring "Rhine 2020" programme and adopted a new, forward-looking "Rhine 2040" programme with ambitious goals.

International Commission for the Hydrology of the Rhine basin

The CHR General or International Commission for the Hydrology of the Rhine basin (CHR) is an organization in which the scientific institutes of the Rhine riparian states develop joint hydrological measures for sustainable development of the Rhine basin.

The CHR was founded in 1970 following advice by UNESCO to promote closer co-operation in international river basins. Since 1975, the work has been continued within the framework of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) of the UNESCO and the Operational Hydrological Programme (OHP) of the WMO. The member states of the CHR are: Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

CHR's mission and tasks

Expansion of the knowledge of the hydrology in the Rhine basin through:

  • joint research
  • exchange of data, methods and information
  • development of standardized procedures
  • publications in the CHR series

Making a contribution to the solution of cross-border problems through the formulation, management and provision of:

  • information systems, e.g. GIS for hydrological practice
  • models, e.g. models for water management and a Rhine Alarm model

Research for practice

As a working alliance of the states, riparian to the Rhine, the CHR is able to combine complex data records into a uniform database on which basis projects can be conducted. These do not just relate to the river line itself, but also to the entire Rhine basin. The themes of these projects are:

  • hydrological interests in water economy and flood control
  • sediment management
  • hydrological forecasts and models
  • comparison between methods and measuring equipment
  • studies into climatic changes and their possible effects
  • registration of the interactive relationships between the various influencing factors on the hydrology of the Rhine basin

Creating synergies through co-operation

The CHR deploys working groups and reporters to carry out these projects. The hydrological services and universities of the individual member states second specialist staff and make resources available. Where necessary, the CHR liaises with other international organizations and/or makes its findings available to them.

International Meuse Commission

The International Meuse Commission (IMC) was established in 2002 with the signing of the Meuse Treaty (Treaty of Ghent). The aim of the Convention is to achieve sustainable and integrated water management in the international river basin district of the Meuse. The treaty is signed by the Walloon Region, the Netherlands, France, Germany, the Flemish Region, the Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium and Luxembourg. The Meuse Treaty entered into force on December 1, 2006.

The main tasks of the IMC are:

  • aligning the obligations of the European Water Framework Directive
  • aligning the obligations of the European directive on assessment and management of flood risks
  • giving advice and recommendations to the Parties, for the prevention and control of calamitous water pollution (warning and alarm system)

The Committee meets once a year. The IMC has 5 permanent working groups and a few temporary project groups for the preparation.

The IMC formulates recommendations and takes decisions unanimously, has a rotating chairmanship and meets in 3 working languages (French, Dutch and German). The IMC has recognized 5 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as observers. They participate in meetings.

Rijkswaterstaat participates in the International Meuse Commission on behalf on the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

International Scheldt River Committee

With a total length of 350 km, the Scheldt river runs from northern France through Wallonia and Flanders to the city of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where it meets the North Sea. The International Scheldt Commission is an intergovernmental body consisting of 6 Contracting Parties: France, Belgium, Wallonia, Flanders, Brussels capital region and the Netherlands. It strives for sustainable and integrated water management in the international Scheldt river basin district (Scheldt district).

Important topics for collaboration are the harmonized implementation of the European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Floods Directive (FD), covering issues such as chemical and ecological water quality, fish migration, sediment management, groundwater, flood risk management, adaptation to climate change (in particular prevention of the consequences of drought ) and the cross-border control of calamitous pollution in the waters.

The Scheldt watershed includes all surface waters, both natural and artificial, groundwater and coastal waters of the Scheldt river basin, the basins of the Somme, the Aa and the Canche, the French northern polders, the Flemish polders to the Oosterschelde and the Grevelingenmeer in the Netherlands. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, Rijkswaterstaat and regional water authorities are active members of the International Scheldt Commission (ISC).

International Ems river commission

In the international river basin Eems, the Netherlands and Germany work together on the cross-border objectives of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) and on the implementation of the Floods Directive (Floods Directive). International cooperation is also coordinated by the Eems Secretariat. This collaboration takes place on 3 levels:

  • International Steering Group
  • International Coördination Group
  • International River Basin Sub-commissions

Rijkswaterstaat is active at all 3 levels with a mandate of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Watermanagement.

The international river basin district of the Ems comprises territory of Germany and the Netherlands. In total, the Ems river basin covers an area of approximately 17,802 km2. Of these, 23% fall in North Rhine-Westphalia, 61% in Lower Saxony and 13% on Dutch territory. The remaining 3% is accounted for by the Ems-Dollard area in the Ems estuary, which is jointly managed by Germany and the Netherlands. The Ems has a length of approximately 371 km from its source to its mouth in the North Sea. At present, sludge from the Ems estuary is used for flood protection. Late 2019, the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water opened a new sea wall between Eemshaven and the city of Delfzijl, which is crucial for defending our land against the sea and keeping our feet dry.

Permanent Dutch-German Border Waters Commission

With respect to regional waters, most of the Dutch-German International consultation takes place in 7 subcommittees (A to G), in which all those directly involved in regional water management are represented on both sides of the Dutch-German border.

Subcommittee G of the Permanent Dutch-German Border Waters Commission

Subcommittee G is a subcommittee of the Permanent Dutch-German Border Waters Commission, which was established in 1963 as a result of the Border Treaty between Germany and the Netherlands (from 1960). The Border Waters Commission has the task of consulting on water management issues that are also relevant to the border waters in the neighbouring country.

Subcommittee G deals with the Ems-Dollard area. Since the approval of the Ems-Dollard Environmental Protocol (1996), this subcommittee deals with issues related to water and nature management. In recent years, this also increasingly includes tasks related to the implementation of the European Water Framework, and Floods Directives. With the establishment of the Convention on the Use and Management of the Territorial Sea of 3 to 12 Nautical Miles (2014), additional regulatory arrangements have been made for the laying of cables and pipelines and the production of renewable energy.

To support the subcommittee in the elaboration of special themes, working groups have been set up (including the Eems-Dollard Water Quality System Working Group, the Sludge Knowledge Exchange Working Group, etc.) consisting of experts from both countries.