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A perpetually interrupted interbasin water transfer as a modern Greek drama: Assessing the Acheloos to Pinios interbasin water transfer in the context of integrated water resources management

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Interbasin water transfer is a primary instrument of water resources management directly related with the integrated development of the economy, society and environment. Here we assess the project of the interbasin water transfer from the river Acheloos to the river Pinios basin which has intrigued the Greek society, the politicians and scientists for decades. The set of criteria we apply originate from a previous study reviewing four interbasin water transfers and assessing whether an interbasin water transfer is compatible with the concept of integrated water resources management. In this respect, we assess which of the principles of the integrated water resources management the Acheloos to Pinios interbasin water transfer project does or does not satisfy. While the project meets the criteria of real surplus and deficit, of sustainability and of sound science, i.e., the criteria mostly related to the engineering part, it fails to meet the criteria of good governance and balancing of existing rights with needs, i.e., the criteria associated with social aspects of the project. The non-fulfilment of the latter criteria is the consequence of chronic diseases of the Greek society, which become obvious in the case study.
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Open Water Journal
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A Perpetually Interrupted Interbasin Water Transfer
as a Modern Greek Drama: Assessing the Acheloos
to Pinios Interbasin Water Transfer in the Context
of Integrated Water Resources Management
Hristos Tyralis
National Technical University of Athens576;+091:;-9/5)14+75
Tegos Aristoteles
National Technical University of Athens;-/7:)91:@)077/9
Anastasia Delichatsiou
),-41+0);:17<@)077/9
Nikos Mamassis
6137:1;1)6;<)/9
Demetris Koutsoyiannis
National Technical University of Athens,31;1)6;<)/9
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A Perpetually Interrupted Interbasin Water Transfer as a Modern Greek
Drama: Assessing the Acheloos to Pinios Interbasin Water Transfer in the
Context of Integrated Water Resources Management
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A Perpetually Interrupted Interbasin Water Transfer
as a Modern Greek Drama: Assessing the Acheloos
to Pinios Interbasin Water Transfer in the Context of
Integrated Water Resources Management
Case Study
Hristos Tyralis1*, Aristoteles Tegos2, Anastasia Delichatsiou3, Nikos
Mamassis4, Demetris Koutsoyiannis5
1,2,4,5Department of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, National
Technical University of Athens, Heroon Polytechneiou 5, 157 80 Zografou, Greece
2 tegosaris@yahoo.gr
3Retired, Infrastructure Directorate, General Sta, Hellenic Air Force, Mpodosaki 4, 142 32 Nea Ionia, Greece, adeli-
chatsiou@yahoo.gr
4nikos@itia.ntua.gr
5dk@itia.ntua.gr
*Corresponding Author: montchrister@gmail.com
ABSTRACT
Interbasin water transfer is a primary instrument of water resources management directly related with the inte-
grated development of the economy, society and environment. Here we assess the project of the interbasin water
transfer from the river Acheloos to the river Pinios basin which has intrigued the Greek society, the politicians
and scientists for decades. e set of criteria we apply originate from a previous study reviewing four interbasin
water transfers and assessing whether an interbasin water transfer is compatible with the concept of integrated
water resources management. In this respect, we assess which of the principles of the integrated water resources
management the Acheloos to Pinios interbasin water transfer project does or does not satisfy. While the project
meets the criteria of real surplus and decit, of sustainability and of sound science, i.e., the criteria mostly relat-
ed to the engineering part, it fails to meet the criteria of good governance and balancing of existing rights with
needs, i.e., the criteria associated with social aspects of the project. e non-fullment of the latter criteria is the
consequence of chronic diseases of the Greek society, which become obvious in the case study.
Keywords
Acheloos, Greece, interbasin water transfer, integrated water resources management, socioeconomic
Open Water 114
1. Introduction
e study of interbasin water transfer (IWT) is nec-
essarily interdisciplinary. Aspects of the related prob-
lems should be examined, using knowledge from scien-
tic and engineering elds (geomorphology, hydraulic
engineering, hydrological science and engineering,
water quality, water resources planning etc.) as well
as humanities – social sciences elds (administration,
ecology and environmental protection, economics, law,
politics etc.) [Gupta and van der Zaag, 2008; Yevjevich,
2001]. e IWTs contribute 14% of global water with-
drawals and 17% of water withdrawals in Europe (e.g.
Gupta and van der Zaag [2008]). Notably, the water
supply of several cities comes from water basins that are
located hundreds of kilometers away (e.g. Los Angeles,
Athens). e scientic literature includes several cases
of IWT assessments, whether the projects are materi-
alized or pending, as well as water management plans
that include IWTs in several parts of the world, such
as China [Ma et al., 2005], India [Misra et al., 2007],
South Africa [Speed et al., 2013], Southeast Asia [Lebel
et al., 2005], Spain [Albiac et al., 2003; Saurı and del
Moral, 2001; Videira et al., 2006], Turkey [Karakaya et
al., 2014] and the US [Bretsen and Hill, 2009; Feldman,
2001; Palmer and Characklis, 2009; Ward, 2007].
e IWTs induce major conicts and disputes,
mainly due to the potential environmental damage
and the water loss of the donor basin. e problem
becomes even more complicated when the number of
goals served by the transfer increases [Yevjevich, 2001].
e assessment of IWT projects is accomplished using
various methods. However, the analysis of legal instru-
ments has shown that they do not contain specic rules
which regulate IWTs [Karageorgou, 2011]. Some stud-
ies attempted to form a sucient framework for IWT
project assessment, in view of the absence of concrete
legal rules. Karageorgou [2011] attempted to form such
a framework in the context of sustainable water use.
Gupta and van der Zaag [2008] proposed ve criteria
for evaluating such projects. e use of these criteria
can help in deducing whether the water transfer is com-
patible with the concept of integrated water resources
management. Game theory has also been used to nd
the optimal solution for such problems [Mahjouri
and Ardestani, 2010; We i, 2008; Wei and Yang, 2014].
ere exist two views in the water resources man-
agement globally. e traditional view aims to serve the
total water needs, which are constantly growing, while
the second and most recent one emphasizes the use of
alternative, non-structural, measures. A representative
of the alternative view is Gleick (2000) who proposed
the so-called “so path” suggesting smaller scale proj-
ects, such as smaller dams and local management. He
notes that it is better to meet the constantly increas-
ing needs, to adapt our habits to what can be met from
available resources and to maintain the ecological
cycles than to look for water. Tarjuelo et al. (2010) con-
clude that large-scale projects, such as IWT projects are
only justied if all the alternative smaller scale projects
have been exhausted and the IWT serves vital needs.
On the other hand, Koutsoyiannis (2011) strongly
criticized the “so path” concept. He concludes that
more dams are needed globally to meet the growing
needs in water, food and energy, more water transfer
projects are needed to meet the water needs of large cit-
ies and irrigation, and large-scale projects outweigh the
small-scale ones because they are the only eective for
energy production, they are multipurpose and, under a
holistic view, they may be less damaging to the environ-
ment. In particular, according to Koutsoyiannis (2011,
2013) water shortage has mainly economic reasons
and indicates a lack of technological infrastructure for
water. Areas with high population growth suer most
from lack of water and areas with water shortages have
a low level of public health. He also raises several ques-
tions, such as whether can water be used by people
without being transferred, or what is the essential dif-
ference between the IWT and the water transfer within
the basin. It is apparent that the issue of the IWT is part
of the dispute on the need for smaller scale projects.
Here we investigate the case of the IWT from the
Acheloos basin to the adjacent basin Pinios, a highly
debated project in Greece. ere is an ongoing dis-
cussion since 1983 on the usefulness of the transfer,
while part of the required infrastructure has been
constructed but not put in operation. In our investi-
gation we particularly assess the satisfaction of the
set of the ve criteria proposed by Gupta and van der
Zaag (2008) as a necessary and sucient condition
for the IWT feasibility. e novelty of our study is
that we use an existing integrated framework to assess
the project, while previous studies just enumerated
advantages and disadvantages of this particular IWT.
2.0 Study area and methods
2.1 Description of the study area
e river basin district (RBD) of essaly, where the
Pinios river lies (Figure 1), is hydrologically poor, while
115Open Water
the RBD of Western Sterea Hellas, which includes the
Acheloos river basin, is hydrologically rich. e RBD
of essaly is an important region for the Greek agri-
cultural sector, but an increase in the agricultural
production resulted in shortage of water resources
and environmental degradation [Koutsoyiannis et al.,
2002]. e RBD of Western Sterea Hellas has been
crucial for hydropower as Acheloos produces the 35%
of hydro energy in Greece [Efstratiadis et al., 2012],
while the needs for urban water supply and irriga-
tion are very small in comparison to water availability
[Koutsoyiannis et al., 2008]. To solve the problem of
the RBD of essaly, the water transfer from Acheloos
to the Pinios basin has been proposed. is proj-
ect is known as the Acheloos diversion scheme, and
achieves the co-management of water of both basins.
e idea for the implementation of water man-
agement projects at the Acheloos basin goes back
to ancient Greece. As mentioned for example in
Koutsoyiannis et al. (2007), the myth of Hercules
ghting with Acheloos, deied as son of Poseidon,
symbolizes the battle against the destructive force of
water. e idea for the IWT is also old but, despite the
partial completion of several subprojects, the over-
all project still remains incomplete. e discussion
on the project recurred in 1972 [Hadjibiros, 2003].
e engineering part of the project was designed in
1983 for the rst time. It was included in a European
Union nancing programme within an investment
scheme mainly for irrigation and secondarily for
hydroelectric energy production [Hadjibiros, 2003].
Over the last 20 years, a dispute continues with harsh
legal battles between the state and non-governmen-
tal organizations that wish for the project annulment
[Valavanidis and Vlachogianni, 2011; Valavanidis and
Vlachogianni, 2012]. We note here that another IWT
project for the same basins already exists since 1960
with the Plastiras lake (reservoir) fed by Tavropos
river, tributary of Acheloos, whose water is diverted to
essaly. More than 100 hm3 per year of the Acheloos
water is transferred to essaly for hydroelectric
energy production, water supply of the city of Karditsa
and irrigation of the essaly plain [Efstratiadis and
Hadjibiros, 2011]. e beauty of the landscape with the
Figure 1. Major hydrological basins of Greece with marking of the Acheloos and Pinios basins.
Open Water 116
Plastiras reservoir attracted tourists since 1990s, which
led to development of the area and was accompanied
by change in the reservoir management to include the
goal of the landscape beauty [Christodes et al., 2005].
2.2 Acheloos and Pinios basins as a geographical
and planning unit
e idea of a basin as a planning unit dates back to
the 18th century [Molle, 2009]. In the case of IWTs the
basin planning unit is required to be expanded. Usually,
the boundaries of a basin do not coincide with admin-
istrative or political boundaries. Simultaneously, there
may exist conicting socioeconomic forces within the
planning unit [Molle, 2009]. Oen, water resource
planning is made at the scale of the basin. However,
the water transfer requires a common planning for the
two (or more) associated basins. us, in IWT projects,
the concept of spatial planning of the water resources is
of great importance, while the administrative division
of the two areas is also signicant [Yevjevich, 2001].
e boundaries of Western Sterea Hellas and
essaly RBDs do not coincide with the boundaries
of the corresponding administrative regions, includ-
ing the prefectures within them, as shown in Table 1.
ey also do not coincide with the Acheloos and Pinios
basins. However, the available data, depending on their
type, are spatially classied either in prefectures or in
administrative regions. is will not constitute a prob-
lem for our analysis, because the large-scale project
mainly aects the Etoloakarnania prefecture, which
belongs almost entirely to the RBD of the Western
Sterea Hellas and occupies the largest area and approx-
imately 70% of its population (Table 1). e proj-
ect also aects the prefectures of Larissa, Magnesia,
Trikala and Karditsa which constitute almost entirely
the essaly RBD (Table 1) and of which the largest
part belongs to the aforementioned RBD. Here the
spatial planning unit is dened by the Acheloos and
Pinios basins (Figure 1). e Acheloos basin contains
the Etoloakarnania prefecture, in which the bulk of
economic activities of the Western Sterea Hellas RBD
is concentrated. e Pinios basin includes the prefec-
Evrytania
Etoloakarnania
Leada
Phocis
Karditsa
Trikala
Arta
Phthiotis
Total Western
Sterea Hellas
Larissa
Magnesia
Trikala
Karditsa
Pieria
Grevena
Phthiotis
Total essaly
1 869
5 362
356
1 219
472
676
241
4
10 199
5 283
2 242
2 667
2 163
113
167
742
13 377
100
98
100
58
19
20
15
0
98
85
79
82
7
7
17
32 053
222 858
22 506
18 251
7 513
4 832
3 750
0
312 516
279 305
190 642
133 215
121 380
4 934
5 237
15 732
750 445
Prefecture Prefecture area in
the RBD (km2)
Percentage of prefecture
area in the RBD (%)
Population of the prefecture
in the RBD (2001)
Table 1. Size and population of prefectures in the Western Sterea Hellas and essaly RBD. Source: Koutsoyiannis et al. [2008, pp. 237,
375].
117Open Water
tures of Larissa, Magnesia, Trikala and Karditsa and
small parts of other prefectures. e economic activ-
ities of the Larissa, Magnesia, Trikala and Karditsa
prefectures are highly positively correlated with the
economic activities in the Pinios basin. Consequently,
the conclusions which are referred to the RBDs or their
prefectures could be transported to the correspond-
ing basins, without losing much in the precision level.
Table 2 presents economic and water resources related
variables concerning both RBDs. Regarding the econ-
omy, it seems that the primary sector is approximately
equal in both RDBs, however the secondary sector of
essaly RDB is signicantly superior, as a percentage
of the total economy compared to the secondary sec-
tor of Western Sterea Hellas RDB. e tertiary sector of
Western Sterea Hellas RDB is signicantly superior, as
a percentage of the total economy compared to the ter-
tiary sector of essaly RDB. In terms of water demand,
the essaly RDB requires four times more water for
irrigation. is is due to the fact that the irrigated areas
of essaly RDB are four times bigger than those of the
Western Sterea Hellas RDB. Here we highlight the fact
that the types of crops in both RDBs seem to require
the same amount of water per unit area and thus there
is no dierentiation in favor of the essaly RDB.
Table 4 presents economic data for the whole of
Greece noticing that these data are not directly com-
parable to those presented in Table 2. Comparing eco-
nomic data of Greece to those of other countries of the
world, we observe that for states of similar economic
power per citizen, Greece has a relatively larger pro-
portion of GDP derived from agriculture as depicted
River basin district
Primary sector GDP (%)
Secondary sector GDP (%)
Tertiary sector GDP (%)
Water demand for irrigation (hm3/year)
Water demand for animal husbandry (hm3/year)
Drinking water demand (hm3/year)
Total water demand (hm3/year)
Irrigated area from public irrigation projects (ha)
Irrigated area from private works and water boreholes
(ha)
Irrigated area (ha)
34.8
18.8
46.4
366.5
9
22.4
397.9
53 575
2 066
55 641
33.5
26.1
40.3
1 550
13
69
1 632
76 950
159 142
236 092
Western Sterea Hellas essaly
Table 2. Economic and water resources related variables of Western Sterea Hellas and essaly RBDs. Source: Koundouri et al. [2008,
Appendix 1], Koutsoyiannis et al. [2008, pp. 267, 268, 412] aer adaptation.
Prefecture
Etoloakarnania
Karditsa
Larissa
Magnesia
Trikala
Greece
GDP per capita in 2006 (€)
13 100
11 900
16 500
19 600
13 400
22 200
Table 3. GDP per capita as at the year 2006. Source: Rodríguez-Pose et al. [2012].
Open Water 118
Country
Greece
Agricultural sector
(% of GDP)
3.80
Industrial sector
(% of GDP)
13.79
Services sector
(% of GDP)
82.41
GDP per capita
($/capita)
21 965
Table 4. Economic data as at the year 2013. Source: e World Bank aer adaptation (http://data.worldbank.org/).
Figure 2. Percentage of GDP derived from agriculture (top), industry (middle) and services (bottom) in relation to GDP per capita as
at the year 2013. All countries of the world are represented. Greece is located at the intersection of the horizontal with the vertical line.
Data source: e World Bank (http://data.worldbank.org/).
119Open Water
in Figure 2, even though no large dierentiation
appears. Furthermore, with the downward trend of the
Greek GDP of recent years, this ratio will move to the
mean ratio of states with similar economic conditions.
However, as seen in Figure 2, the proportion of GDP
derived from industry is much lower compared to that
of states of similar economic abilities, while the per-
centage of GDP derived from services is much higher.
is is maybe an indication that the Greek economy is
not sustainable.
At this point, we note that as Monastiriotis and
Psycharis [2014] conclude that the allocation of public
resources in Greece in recent decades was not optimal,
and the reduction of economic resources which now
depend increasingly on external funding (with its own
terms and conditions) makes it necessary to change the
public investment strategy. In our view, this is one rea-
son why we observe this distribution pattern of GDP
between sectors. Additionally, the reduction of eco-
nomic resources makes it necessary to more carefully
allocate the existing capital, thus the thorough exam-
ination of such large projects is of critical importance.
2.3 Required infrastructure for the interbasin water
transfer
Figure 3 shows the reservoirs in the Acheloos
basin. Overall for the operation of the project four
reservoirs are required of which at present only the
reservoir of Mesochora has been fully built, with the
Sykia dam being incomplete. Two of the reservoirs are
located in the Acheloos basin, while the other two are
located in the Pinios basin. Table 5 shows the reser-
voirs of the project, their condition and storage capac-
ity, and their potential to produce hydroelectricity.
2.4 Integrated water resources management
Gupta and van der Zaag [2008] dene the IWT as
the transfer of water from one geographically distinct
river catchment, or basin to another, or from one river
reach to another. ey note that the ‘donor’’ and ‘‘recip-
ient’’ basins or rivers are distinguished. ey attempt to
investigate how the IWT is associated with the concept
of integrated water resources management, according
to which there must exist a balance between the envi-
ronmental, social and economic dimensions in the
decision-making. Aer studying four large-scale IWT
projects in various locations of the world, they pro-
pose ve criteria that must be satised so that an IWT
be compatible with the concept of integrated water
resources management. ese criteria are as follows:
“- Real surplus and decit: there is a real surplus in
the donor basin and a real decit in the recipient
basin.
- Sustainability: the transfer scheme is sustainable
in terms of economic, social and environmental
aspects.
- Good governance: the scheme is developed through
a process of good governance (including participa-
tory decision-making, transparency, accountabil-
ity, the rule of law, etc.).
- Balance existing rights with needs: the scheme
respects existing rights; if necessary adequate com-
pensation measures are agreed. No person will be
worse o because of the scheme, and there are no
negative extra-territorial eects.
- Sound science: the scheme is based on sound sci-
ence, it adequately identies uncertainty and risk
and gaps in knowledge. All possible alternatives
have been considered.
An integrated approach on the implementation of
large IWT projects is also presented by Yevjevich [2001],
who notes that IWT projects require long periods to
study and large planning. He discusses about the con-
troversies among donor and recipient regions and the
three standard methods of conict resolution, i.e. the
administrative-legal, arbitration, and market decision.
3.0 Environmental and engineering, social and legal
aspects
3.1 Environmental dimensions
Environmental value of the Acheloos delta
Acheloos is the largest river in Western Greece, with
the highest discharge and the second longest in the Greek
territory with a total length of 220 km. e basin area
is approximately 6 250 km2 and contributes signicant
amounts of water and sediment in the lower catchment
area. Because of its size, Acheloos presents complex
physical geography and geomorphology [Mertzanis and
Mertzanis, 2013]. Acheloos has a large estuary with wet-
lands of high environmental importance [Fourniotis,
2012]. Nikolaidis et al. [2006] explored several sce-
narios and actions to improve water quality under
the Water Framework Directive (WFD-2000/60/EE).
e water balance in essaly district
Open Water 120
e total annual water consumption in the essaly
district is approximately equal to 1 632 hm3, of which
69 hm3 for domestic use and 1 550 hm3 for agricul-
tural use (Table 2). Generally, the increasing demand
for water for irrigation is met with the overexploita-
tion of groundwater resources [Loukas et al., 2007].
In some regions a drawdown of 100 m of the water
level has been observed [Koutsoyiannis, 2008, p.
394]. Many problems about the water resources
in essaly have been encountered, because of
the negative water balance such as downgraded
Figure 3. e Acheloos basin and its reservoir system. Future projects of the plan of the Acheloos to Pinios interbasin water transfer are
indicated in italics. Source: Efstratiadis et al. (2014).
121Open Water
water quality, saltwater intrusion and the grad-
ual desertication of land [Margaris et al., 2006].
Existing policies and proposals for problem solving
As mentioned by Margaris et al. [2006], water short-
age in essaly is partially due to the draining of lakes
in the region. Drainage was made to reduce malaria and
increase the farming land. Margaris et al. [2006] also
attribute the arising problems to the cotton crops, how-
ever they do not quantify the gain in quantity of water,
in case of change of crops. In our view, this gain would
be insignicant compared to the amounts of water which
are already consumed. Loukas et al. [2007] also attribute
the problem of water shortage to the cotton crops but also
to the suboptimal management of water resources, due
to which the demand for water increased considerably.
Suggestions for solving the water shortage problem in
essaly [Loukas et al., 2007], include better management
of water resources with drastic reduction of poorly irri-
gated areas in which the available water resources do not
fully meet the demand for irrigation, reduction of the total
irrigated area, and change and improvement of irrigation
systems to minimize water losses and the change of the
type of crops to less water demanding. Similar suggestions
abound in regional literature and local press; however, it is
oen forgotten that such measures cannot be materialized
by wishful thinking but in fact are costly. e proposed
measures for increasing the availability of water resources
in essaly, which may be less costly, are the manage-
ment of surface water resources in the basin through the
development of a system of dams and reservoirs, and the
transfer of a quantity of water from the Acheloos basin.
3.2 Cases of investigation of the Acheloos and
Pinios basins hydro-system in the scientic
literature
In this Section we present the results of scien-
tic works concerning the Acheloos to Pinios IWT.
ese results concern mainly the economic and
environmental dimensions of the diversion scheme.
Investigation 1 [Koutsoyiannis, 1996]
e study on the Acheloos to Pinios IWT by
Koutsoyiannis (1996) introduced and analyzed the
pumped storage scheme, and suggested that the trans-
fer of 600 hm3/year besides solving partially the water
shortage problem in essaly, can also improve the
energy production value through pumped storage.
Investigation 2 [Efstratiadis et al., 2005]
Efstratiadis et al. [2005] investigated the interan-
nual water balance of the West essaly region. e
regions water demands are covered from surface
waters by 21.4%, from water boreholes by 46.1% and
from the Plastiras reservoir by 32.5%. During the
time period 1972-1993, the irrigation demands of the
hydro-system were increasing constantly, while the
necessary infrastructure was not completed, caus-
ing overexploitation of the aquifer. e renewal of
Reservoir
Mesochora
Sykia
Kremasta
Kastraki
Stratos
Pyli
Mouzaki
Storage capacity (hm3)
Minimum
132.8
94.0
999.0
750.0
60.0
21.7
54.4
Maximum
358.0
590.8
4 500.0
800.0
70.2
68.7
237.2
Basin
Acheloos
Acheloos
Acheloos
Acheloos
Acheloos
Pinios
Pinios
Condition
Built
Under con-
struction
Operating
Operating
Operating
Designed
Designed
Number of
units
2
2
4
4
2
2
2
Hydroelectric factory
Installed power (MW)
160
120
436
320
156
260
270
Table 5. Reservoirs for the Acheloos to Pinios interbasin water transfer, with their storage capacity and the proposed installed hydro-
power. Source: Koutsoyiannis et al. [2002].
Open Water 122
the aquifer is slow compared to the increase of irri-
gation demands, while the Plastiras lake irrigates
larger areas compared to that of the initial planning.
Investigation 3 [Loukas et al., 2007]
Aer studying the essaly hydro-system Loukas
et al. [2007] concluded that the existing reservoirs are
unable to supply sucient water to satisfy the pres-
ent needs. As a result, the unsustainable groundwater
pumping is used to cover the huge decit. e proposed
surface water storage projects in Pinios basin (see also
Figure 2 in Loukas et al., [2007]) would reduce the large
decit, but it would be impossible to meet the demand.
e partial diversion of Acheloos river would increase
greatly the availability of water and improve the water
balance. However, we would expect a negative water bal-
ance during dry hydrological years. erefore, demand
management measures to reduce water demand for irri-
gation is necessary to restore groundwater resources.
Investigation 4 (Fourniotis, 2012; Mertzanis and
Mertzanis, 2013)
Fourniotis [2012] suggests a hydrodynamic tool in
an attempt to assess the eect of the Acheloos diver-
sion in the lower part of the river ecosystem. However,
he has not completed his assessment. Mertzanis and
Mertzanis [2013] also present changes that have taken
place in the Acheloos basin from 1950 onwards. e
construction of dams results in the progressive reduc-
tion of the river sediments. Several geomorpholog-
ical changes and changes in land use concerning the
coastal area have also been identied. e degrada-
tion of the coastal region is also accelerated by the
saltwater intrusion, the overexploitation of ground-
water and the expansion of tourism infrastructure.
Investigation 5 [Bouziotas, 2012]
Bouziotas [2012, see pp. 142, 143] simulated the
operation of the Acheloos and Pinios basins sys-
tem. He concluded that adding the already built
Mesochora reservoir to the reservoir system will
provide energy benets, which he estimated at 10
M€ per year. With a water transfer target of 600 hm3
the system can provide energy equal to 1 759 GWh
per year that is estimated to 38% of the current aver-
age annual energy production from hydropower
plants in Greece. Simultaneously the irrigation
and environmental constraints in Etoloakarnania
are met even aer the IWT with practically zero
failure. e entire benet (energy and irrigation)
from the operation of the system is estimated at
150 M€ per year. He also proposes composing a
comprehensive management study of the system
that combines energy production with appropri-
ate restructuring and exploitation of the farmlands.
Investigation 6 [Koundouri et al., 2014]
Koundouri et al. [2014] estimated the cost of natu-
ral resources for essaly, i.e. the component of water
pricing, which is linked to the present or future short-
age due to the overexploitation of water resources
beyond the renewal rate approximately at 90 M€,
which is the largest in Greece. He attributes this cost
entirely to the use of water for irrigation, because of
the priority policy for the use of water for urban needs.
Because of this policy they considered that the cost
of natural resources for urban water demand is zero.
Investigation 7 [Nikolopoulos, 2015, pp. 218, 219]
Nikolopoulos [2015] simulated the operation of
the Acheloos and Pinios basins system. e study is
notable because it considers almost all the processes
occurring within the hydro-system. He concluded
that it is of importance not only the total amount of
the diverted water, but also its management. e water
system, due to its inherent complexity, is very sensitive
and small changes in the management policies lead to
strong variations in the performance measures (pri-
mary energy, failure probability, annual decits). A
typical example is that the water diversion of 600 hm3
per year, with the sole criterion of energy eciency, is
problematic. Furthermore, its eects are worse than the
best compromise of a smaller IWT amount of 250 hm3.
erefore, management decisions are not simple.
e IWT has a signicant positive inuence on the
primary energy if combined with pumped storage. Even
if the IWT project is not materialized, the completion
of the Pyli and Mouzaki reservoirs is necessary, as they
contribute to signicant reduction of the water decit in
essaly. e irrigation demand in both basins is high
but has potential for signicant reduction by improv-
ing irrigation practices and with a long-term restruc-
turing of the crop. However, the environmental prob-
lem of essaly cannot be solved with the IWT project
solely, but requires additional technical measures. e
123Open Water
environmental constraints of the hydro-system are sat-
ised with great reliability in all examined cases. e
cost of restructuring crops and developing large-scale
closed irrigation networks in essaly is high and,
even with rationalizing irrigation consumptions, the
over pumping problem of groundwater aquifers will
not be solved. Furthermore, all quantitative environ-
mental constraints will not be completely satised. In
this regard, Nikolopoulos [2015] concludes that the
scenario of a transfer of 250 hm3 per year framed with
rational management policies is both feasible and sus-
tainable, while it is not inconsistent with the principles
of the Water Framework Directive (WFD-2000/60/EE).
3.3 Legal and social aspects
e legislation for this type of works was incomplete,
at least in the initial period of the project conception.
At that time the gap was covered using indirect means.
An important role in the attitude of citizens played the
mobilization of environmentalist Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGO). ese issues are discussed in
the literature for the time period up to 2008, while
for the legal aspects of the recent period the reader
is referred to Moules [2013] and Savaresi [2012] and
for the social aspect to Frantzeskaki et al. [2016].
e legal framework
Frantzeskaki [2011, p. 84] divides the project devel-
opment into three periods. e rst period spans
from 1950 to 1980. e second period ends in 2000
and is characterized by social reactions. From 1984 to
2000 the project was interrupted several times, aer
being brought to the court mainly due to the involve-
ment of environmentalist NGOs, led by the Greek
Ornithological Society (GOS) and the WWF (World
Wildlife Fund) [Houck, 2008] while several times
there were changes in the plan with a major change
in the amount of water to be transferred from 1 100 hm3 in
600 hm3 [Maragou and Mantziou, 2000]. We note that
there were shortcomings in the Greek environmen-
tal legislation, at least until 2000. e Council of State
attempted to ll this gap by legislating [Houck, 2008].
e third period was completed in 2008. During this
period there was an attempt to revive the project. An
important role in the attempt for the revival played
the residents of essaly. e state tried to intersect
the project into smaller projects with the aim not to
cause social reactions [Frantzeskaki, 2011, p. 84]. Since
1999, the strategy changed and the WWF with its
allies demanded the interruption of the project (with
the excuse of protecting historical and cultural monu-
ments). e work was interrupted for two years, while
in 2003 the Council of State halted the project on the
ground that it is incompatible with the European pol-
icy on water. In 2006, however, there was an attempt to
start the project because it was considered of “imper-
ative reasons of overriding public interest” (IROPI),
so that it is possible to omit the satisfaction of certain
rules. At this point, the European Union stopped to
play a role, since they would not nance the project in
either way. However, in 2007 the WWF came back to
the European Union with a new requirement, consid-
ering there was a violation of justice and environmen-
tal agreements [Houck, 2008]. Finally, at the last going
to the European Court, the conversion of natural eco-
system to manmade ecosystem was allowed, provided
the receiving of compensatory measures [Van Hoorick,
2014]. e European Court also held that the project
could constitute IROPI, concerning its scope for irri-
gation, to the extent that it may have benecial con-
sequences of primary importance for the environment
[Moules, 2013]. However, the project was stopped again
by the Council of State.
e European Union
In the rst phase of the project (Mesochora dam con-
struction) which was funded by the European Economic
Community the European Economic Community
emphasized in improving the infrastructure of its least
developed countries [Koutalakis, 2011]. ere was a
dichotomy in the European policy targets between aim-
ing for regional development on the one hand and pro-
tecting the environment on the other hand [Long, 1995].
However, from the 1980s the strengthening of environ-
mental protection policies began, with the gradual incor-
poration of environmental components and the require-
ment for an integrated approach to growth rather than
assessing each project individually and with the plan-
ning of European projects aiming at sustainable devel-
opment. e main change was the decision for sustain-
able development [Christopoulou, 2011]. Indeed, from
1990 onwards due to the changed EU policy on subsidy
issues concerning the agricultural products, the energy
production dimension of the IWT was emphasized by
the Greek state. Here we note the failure of the Greek
state to conform to the European Union regulations
in many cases and that major environmentalist NGOs
Open Water 124
have systematically resorted to the EU complaints pro-
cedure with the active assistance of the European Union
[Koutalakis, 2011]. However, the nal decision of the
European Court can be considered neutral in our case.
e participation of citizens and the role of the non-gov-
ernmental organizations
e environmental organizations which were
involved in the project since 1984 were supported by
local self-organized environmentalist groups [Daut,
2009] and local authorities. Since then, a campaign
continues, which includes activities such as alarm-
ing the public with press conferences, publishing
articles in the press, petition, mobilization, coor-
dination and cooperation between local author-
ities, NGOs and citizens [Scoullos et al., 2002].
Close [1998, 1999] emphasizes that in early
years of the project environmentalist NGOs
bypassed the state, linking the local and interna-
tional activity. us, the Greek government now
pays more attention to NGOs, while citizens con-
sider that engineering projects destroy the envi-
ronment. Indeed, the project of the Acheloos to
Pinios IWT gave rise to an institutional transition
in Greece, in which the role of the central govern-
ment was reduced and the role of local authorities
and NGOs was increased [Frantzeskaki, 2011, p. 87].
Social dimension
As Rose [1993] mentions two groups of residents
were created. e rst group in essaly wished the
completion of the IWT project, while the s econd group
in Etoloakarnania was opposed to the rst group.
ese groups became coherent and followed dier-
ent policies compared to the policies of the political
parties of the regions. Furthermore, the local com-
munities in Etoloakarnania considered the Acheloos
issue as a matter of state sovereignty over them.
Regarding problems at specic spots, these are
all recorded in the literature. A characteristic exam-
ple is a deserted monastery (Agios Georgios) at
the village of Myrofyllo has been used by envi-
ronmentalists as a major weapon to block the
project. Residents of the village of Mesochora
also opposed to the project [Houck, 2008].
e farmers of essaly, due to the subsidy policies
and the support of the Greek state chose to produce
cotton. However, there has not been an integrated
plan regarding the agricultural production of the
country. For engineers, the Acheloos water which
is discharged to the sea is a lost amount of water,
which must somehow be exploited [Houck, 2008].
4.0 Discussion on the criteria
We investigate whether the ve criteria are satis-
ed, considering the analysis of the previous section.
4.1 Criterion of water decit and criterion of
sustainability
Clearly, Acheloos basin has a big water surplus,
and the Pinios basin has water decit. Regarding the
criterion of sustainability of the project, the envi-
ronmental constraints are met with great reliability
as shown by Nikolopoulos [2015]. We note that the
work of Nikolopoulos [2015] besides using state-
of-the-art technology, in terms of computing power
and theoretical knowledge, is the most complete,
since it has almost fully modelled the two basins.
Furthermore, the results of the work are all quanti-
tative. On the other hand, several works claiming
that serious environmental problems are created in
the Acheloos basin, do not express quantitatively the
problems, at least to the knowledge of the authors,
with the exception of Nikolaidis et al. [2006] who
deal with the present state of the Acheloos basin.
e IWT still creates small scale problems, such
as the need to evacuate the Mesochora settlement,
which, however, in our opinion are manageable.
Regarding the development of the two regions,
the IWT can maintain the quantity of agricultural
production in essaly. Otherwise the agricul-
tural production will continuously decrease as salt-
water intrusion signicantly pollutes the region.
Since at some point in the future, if the GDP is to
increase, the only viable solution to maintain satis-
factory levels of agricultural production in Greece,
whose most important part is the agricultural pro-
duction in the essaly RBD, is the water transfer.
Regarding the development of Greece, we note that
in general we need to emphasize the development
of the industrial sector, against the service sector, so
that a balance between them is achieved for given
levels of the GDP. It seems that the construction of
125Open Water
two reservoirs in the Acheloos basin, whose opera-
tion can (if necessary) be independent of the water
transfer to essaly, will contribute signicantly to the
reduction of energy prices, which is an important fac-
tor for the industrial development. e hydropower
production is not going to decrease, while with the
pumped storage installation it will certainly increase.
4.2 Sound science criterion
While in the original design of the project the
amount of diverted water was set at 1 100 hm3 per year
then, about 1995 the quantity was revised to 600 hm3
(see Koutsoyiannis et al. [1995] for preliminary cal-
culations). e most recent calculations estimate the
optimum result in 250 - 600 hm3 per year [Bouziotas,
2012; Nikolopoulos, 2015]. We think that the results of
the recent research are reliable. It is obvious that the
optimum solution has not improved the last 20 years,
despite the advances in technology. We conclude that
the criterion of sound science is met for at least the
last 20 years, in view of the study by Koutsoyiannis
[1996] and its recent adaptation and verication by
Nikolopoulos [2015]. A common argument against
the project is that early studies (of the 1980s) were
considered by independent institutions as inade-
quate. However, in projects of this type, we come to
the nal solution aer a long time [Yevjevich, 2001].
Furthermore, no other alternatives have appeared.
e change of crops and the reduction of water losses,
despite being necessary, would not be sucient
for the renewal of underground water in essaly.
4.3 Good governance criterion
Aer the World War II Greece suered from a
civil war (1946-49) and more recently by a dictator-
ship (1967-74). ese political conditions resulted in
an authoritarianist Greek state, on the one hand, and
lack of respect of the public interests by individuals,
on the other hand. us, until 1990 the state attempted
to impose the project in an authoritarianist manner,
while people started to react without considering the
public benet. In particular, the local communities
took into account only their own interest, while envi-
ronmentalist NGOs took advantage of the controver-
sial Acheloos case to increase their political inuence.
ey bypassed the Greek state and addressed directly
to the European Union, where environmentalist lob-
bies were strong. e opposition to the Acheloos
WTP became the banner of environmentalist groups
and also attracted the State of the Council, which
is the supreme court of the Greek state. e positive
side of these developments is that, aer bringing the
case to the court, the process became transparent.
Another problem was the lack of proper environ-
mental legislation until 1990. e Council of State
attempted to ll the gap by issuing relevant decisions.
However, it was not technically qualied to investigate
the matter, while the role of the savior of the environ-
ment it assumed may have distracted its actual duty
and mission. e enactment by the Council of State,
and not by the ocial legislator, has the risk of legis-
lating without being based on the technological and
economical reality. When these laws were established,
more problems were created on the long run. Indeed,
in our case, environmental organizations began to play
an increasingly decisive role in justice. e result was
that since 2000, the project is continually interrupted
by judicial decisions, without substantive discussion
on the subject. Environmental organizations address
the issues of water resources management in the ratio-
nale of Gleick (2000), which in our opinion is totally
inappropriate for Greece (and beyond). To overcome
any problems and in these conditions, the government
decided to continue the work with indirect means,
such as intersecting the project into smaller ones. e
result was the continuation of implementation of pol-
icies, which were shady. In such situations, nding the
optimal solution is impossible, while starting substan-
tive discussions is expected to delay for a long time.
e European Union again, from which the
Greek state has asked funding of the project, main-
tained a neutral stance, waiting for the decisions of
the Greek state. At the moment, the project is of lit-
tle importance for the European authorities and,
thus, they do not interfere in the related processed.
4.4 Criterion of balancing existing rights with needs
e project does not harm the interests of the cit-
izens of Acheloos basin. However, formally the water
belongs to them when considered as a natural resource.
In this case, a fair solution in our view is to take com-
pensatory measures from the rewards of the citizens in
the Pinios basin. is would be possible only by direct
consultation between the citizens or even through
arbitration. In Greece, however, the usual treatment of
such issues is the imposition of some group view over
the other, while the state usually supports one group
Open Water 126
(depending on the minister in charge at each time),
with an eventual legal battle. So while compensatory
projects are necessary, they have not been discussed.
5.0 Conclusions and policy implications
e project of the Acheloos to Pinios interba-
sin water transfer is economically, environmentally
and socially sustainable and is based on sound sci-
ence. However, while the completion of the proj-
ect is necessary, simultaneously other necessary
(but costly) measures related to the water manage-
ment in the Pinios basin are required (e.g. modern
irrigation networks, change of type of crops etc.).
While the project would be benecial for the Greek
economy, society and local environment, it was not
materialized, because of its inconsistent handling
from the Greek state in the early 80s, which was the
result of the government’s authoritarian attitude on
the one hand and individuals’ incredulity to state’s
decisions on the other hand. Environmentalist groups
were able to continually pause the project construc-
tion. At the same time, the Greek justice legislated
to cover the gap in the environmental legislation.
From 2000 onwards, the environmentalist groups and
the Greek justice began to play a role greater than that
corresponding to them, and the Greek state resorted to
indirect methods to overcome the obstacles set by the
joint actions of environmentalist groups and judges.
us, the citizens lost their condence to the govern-
ment. erefore, the criterion of good governance was
never satised. Neither the criterion of balancing exist-
ing rights with needs is satised, because of the weakness
for cooperation between citizens that is typical in Greece.
e issue of the Acheloos to Pinios water trans-
fer revealed deeper problems of the Greek soci-
ety, such as the shortcomings of the institutional
framework, the authoritarian and populism behav-
ior of the state, the unclear separation of powers and
the weakness of cooperation between the citizens.
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... To overcome this problem and in order to assess the exceedance probability of the IANOS flooding event, an annual extreme statistical analysis was carried out for 12-years of the annual max daily water level of the Plastiras reservoir located in the west of the study area. The reservoir is a multipurpose reservoir operating for 70-years and having irrigation, water supply, and tourism uses [30,31]. HYDROGNOMON software was used to fit numerous suitable statistical distributions [32]. ...
... To overcome this problem and in order to assess the exceedance probability of the IANOS flooding event, an annual extreme statistical analysis was carried out for 12-years of the annual max daily water level of the Plastiras reservoir located in the west of the study area. The reservoir is a multipurpose reservoir operating for 70-years and having irrigation, water supply, and tourism uses [30,31]. HYDROGNO-MON software was used to fit numerous suitable statistical distributions [32]. ...
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... Since construction begun in 1988, the government-backed plan to divert a major share of the river to irrigate the Plain of Thessaly (Pinios basin) has encountered environmentalist resistance and legal confrontations. The 130-m high dam and hydropower plant at Mesochora in the upper Acheloos with an installed capacity of 170 MW and an energy potential of 340 GWh/ year have been under construction since 2001 but is still not functioning (Tyralis et al., 2017) (Photo 11.9). Another 170-m high dam located further downstream at Sykia is also near completion. ...
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... IBWT projects involve the management of water resources across two or more basins acting as donor and recipient (Tyralis et al., 2017) which necessitates an understanding of the intertwined components of water availability and demand in both catchments (Asiliev OF, 1977). Determining the balance between excess water and water shortage is a 'hybrid' challenge and is a product of natural and social factors (Swyngedouw, 1999), which encompasses multiple objectives and stakeholders (Zhang et al., 2012) with different requirements and often contradictory desires (Lach et al., 2005). ...
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... In our opinion, this may have to do with polarization due to recent dam-building controversies in Greece. Modern dam construction for hydropower and water transfers has produced significant environmental conflict in Greece ( Tyralis et al., 2017 ). Of course, there are well-known positive values, such as the tourism values of certain dams reservoirs in Greece; namely, Plastiras dam reservoir and Doxa reservoir ( Sargentis et al., 2021 ). ...
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... That said, it is also evident that reservoir sizes become impractically large to build quickly. Lesotho, as a case study, has the benefit of being mountainous, but in flatter areas a reservoir of this size may be entirely unfeasible (Shumilova et al. 2018;Tyralis et al. 2017;Fourniotis 2012;Koutsoyiannis 2011). ...
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Poster
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An integrated scheme, comprising a conjunctive hydrological model and a systems oriented management model, was developed, based on a semi-distributed approach. Geographical input data include the river network, the sub-basins upstream of each river node and the aquifer dicretization in the form of groundwater cells of arbitrary geometry. Additional layers of distributed geographical information, such as geology, land cover and terrain slope, are used to define the hydrological response units. Various modules are combined to represent the main processes at the water basin such as, soil moisture, groundwater, flood routing and water management models. Model outputs include river discharges, spring flows, groundwater levels and water abstractions. The model can be implemented in daily and monthly basis. A case study to the West Thessaly region performed. The discharges of five hydrometric stations and the water levels of eight boreholes were used simultaneously for model calibration. The implementation of the model to the certain region demonstrated satisfactory agreement between the observed and the simulated data.
Article
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In many Mediterranean countries, have been observed that human activities-engineering works, such as large dams and reservoirs construction (hydroelectric power dams, irrigation dams and water supply dams), artificial river diversion projects, channelization, etc., may seriously affect the environmental balance of inland and coastal ecosystems (forests, wetlands, lagoons, Deltas, estuaries and coastal areas). Dams construction and operation has modified the natural evolution trends of coastal areas to a considerable extent and has arguably been the most important factor controlling the evolution of the Greek coastal zone in recent decades, while an important factor of the destabilization of the ecological balance is the “climate change” and the role of “climatic cycles” is not negligible. Dams and reservoirs retain vast masses of water and sediments, thus adversely affecting water resources, the seasonal hydrological and hydrogeological regimes while this disruption of water flow and sediment transport is able to generate changes on the supply of groundwater aquifers and on the appearance of coastal erosion phenomena and consequently impacts on delta evolution and coastal ecosystems. Also, the creation of artificial lakes in forest areas and deforestation, contribute to increase emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases and at the changes to the microclimate. The purpose of this study is to: a. describe the main human activities-engineering works which due to their nature and position, cause changes in the natural evolution of the hydro-geomorphological processes in the deltaic coastal zone of the rivers Nestos, Acheloos, Arachthos, Louros, Spercheios, Inois and Alfeios, in Greece, b. report a synthesis of the environmental and geomorphological studies of the areas under study, c. describe the geomorphological evolution of the selected areas and d. detect and evaluate the impacts of the above mentioned human activities and the influence of “climate change” and affect the geomorphological evolution of the Greek coast.
Article
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As the debt crisis in Europe continues to unfold, renewed attention is placed increasingly on public (and private) investment as a vehicle for reigniting growth and counterbalancing the austerity effects of fiscal consolidation policies. Nowhere is this more urgent, or salient, than in Greece. However, there is remarkably little research, at least in that country, examining the criteria under which public investment is allocated across functional categories and across space. This article offers an extensive analysis of the spatial and functional allocation of public investment in Greece over a 33-year period and for various political-economic sub-periods. It examines the prevalence of criteria relating to redistribution, efficiency and equity; the temporal stability and functional complementarity of the observed allocations; and the extent of specialisation, concentration and clustering. Our results offer little evidence of regional or functional targeting, the exploitation of synergies and scale effects (efficiency), or the pursuit of objectives related to equity or redistribution. This raises serious questions about the efficacy of past public investment allocations in Greece and, with the expected increase in funding emanating from the EU, highlights the need for (re)defining the priorities and criteria for the spatial and functional allocation of public investments in the future.
Article
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In this paper the study of the hydrodynamic circulation at the Acheloos' river estuary, in Western Greece, is proposed as a complementary approach for evaluating the environmental impacts, during river's diversion to the Thessaly plain. Up to date, the environmental studies have been restricted only to the upper part of Acheloos river, including mainly hydrologic factors for addressing to the problem. Based on the assumption that the Acheloos diversion project is expected to modify runoff patterns at the lower part of the delta, reducing the ecological flow into the estuary, a hydrodynamic tool is required to quantify the impacts from this ambitious project. More specifically, the application of a hydrodynamic model is required in order to incorporate all the physical factors that affect the hydrodynamic processes in the estuary, including effects of fresh water reduction scenarios to the overall hydrodynamic diet of the estuary, before and after the diversion project. This hydrodynamic approach will contribute towards a detailed understanding of the estuary's ecosystem, quantifying the river's diversion effects at the lower estuary's environment.
Chapter
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) was formulated for addressing the weaknesses of the previous water-related directives. The main steps that WFD involves could be summarized in the setting of ecological standards, the identification of anthropogenic pressures and the adoption of corrective measures. This introductory chapter describes the water situation in Greece and assesses the potential of the timely implementation of the European Union’s (EU) WFD. In this context, the significance of Asopos River Basin (RB) is put into perspective. More analytically, the chapter presents: (a) the employed methodology that enables rapid assessment of the status quo of the water situation in each Greek catchment, as compared to the requirements and targets of the EU WFD, (b) the implementation of this methodology on each of the 14 Greek River Basin Districts (RBDs) and (c) relevant empirical results. The main objective of the chapter is to present the rapid-appraisal methodology that was developed for the estimation of the cost-recovery level for water services in the 14 Greek RBDs. Results from this ‘quick appraisal’ clearly highlight the need for reforms in the current pricing policy and preparation of a package of measures, as proposed in Chaps. 9 and 10, in order for the water bodies to reach good ecological status and the water management to ensure full recovery of the cost of water services as required under article 11 of the WFD.