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Alpine rivers as society's lifelines


SPARE (Strategic Planning for Alpine River Ecosystems) is a project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg Alpine Space programme which involves six Alpine countries (Italy, Slovenia, France, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein).

The cooperation project lasts from December 2015 to December 2018 and it aims at contributing to a further harmonization of Alpine rivers human use requirements and protection needs.

The total eligible budget for the project is 2.184.820,47 € and the ERDF grant is 1.669.521 €.



SPARE is supported and carried out by nine project partners from five Alpine countries, coordinated by the lead partner BOKU-IHG (University of Vienna), with the purpose of demonstrating the importance of an integrated and participative approach for the management of rivers. The project partners are:

  • BOKU-IHG | University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management (lead partner)

  • ARPA VDA | Regional Agency for Environment Protection of the Aosta Valley

  • IzVRS | Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia

  • IRSTEA | French National Research Institute for Science & Technology for the Environment & Agriculture

  • CIPRA International | International Commission for the Protection of the Alps

  • ARPA Veneto | Regional Agency for Environmental Protection and Prevention of Veneto

  • Upper Austria | Water Management Planning Upper Austria

  • SMRD | Joint venture of the public authorities of the river Drôme basin

  • PTE | Foundation Pro Terra Engadine (PTE)



SPARE project contributes to the correct enjoyment of the water resource through a further harmonization of protection needs and human use requirements. The main aims of the project are to:

  • increase the awareness and knowledge level of the services provided by Alpine rivers, their strategic importance, as well as their vulnerability;

  • improve existing river management practices by integrating river ecosystems services and an effective participation of the related stakeholders;

  • enable decision makers and river managers to select and apply strategic planning approaches according to their needs and to the regulatory basis.


The main activities we are implementing within SPARE are to:

  • provide a pan-Alpine overview of priority rivers with high protection need;

  • collect examples of successful river management in the Alps;

  • enable river managers in five pilot case study areas to plan, apply and evaluate participatory methods for water resources management;

  • test integrated and participatory river management approaches;

  • make the lessons learnt from the collected river management examples and from the case studies available for other Alpine rivers;

  • provide an interactive action and policy support platform (SPARE-LIVE), including a decision and participation workflow, an e-learning facility for stakeholders at all levels, and a database of successful river management examples.



The project involves five pilot areas.

DORA BALTEA: Dora Baltea is a glacial river basin of almost 4000 km2 with the typical natural attributes of a mountain river. In the last century, the river has been heavily exploited in support of economic growth and urban expansion, in particular through the building of hundreds of hydropower plants, increasingly deteriorating the river ecological potential. The SPARE challenge is to develop a quantitative assessment approach to the compatibility of different ecosystem services (environmental conservation, landscape protection, water tourism, agriculture, and angling) through a model fed by continuous water discharge monitoring data. A monitoring demonstration site and a web site will be planned to ensure transparency and facilitate the application of results to other river basins.

1.DoraBaltea 2


INN: The stream source of the Inn, one of the longest Alpine rivers (517 km), is located in the Upper Engadine, an inner-alpine dry valley situated in the eastern part of canton Grison, and it follows the valley for about 100 km. In Engadine water resources are affected by different use demands, but the community awareness about the critical situation of water resources is rising. Within the SPARE project, an integrated river management plan will be developed in order to use participatory processes to balance the use and protection of water resources within the river basin (1945 km2) in the Engadine region, by considering the river ecosystem services as well as human use.

3.Inn collage


STEYR UND GROßER BACH: Upper Austria is drained almost completely via the Danube through a wide network of rivers which are the lifelines of sustainable development in the region. Upper Austria’s hydropower analysis is a best practice example of harmonising utilisation and protection strategies, involving different interested parties and demonstrating the intrinsic value of rivers and their vulnerability. Through the SPARE project, information packages about the different functions of rivers and their ecosystem services will be prepared, river sections with special ecological importance will be identified and direct involvement of different stakeholders will be implemented in the Upper Austrian Steyr river basin.

5.UpperAustria collage


SOCA: The Soča Basin is an Adriatic basin which straddles the boundaries of Slovenia and Italy and it is divided in three regions (the upper, middle and lower Soča Basins). Activities will be focused mostly on the upper part, in an alpine sparsely populated area covering around 1250 km2, which is characterised by very high annual precipitation (up to 3200 mm of rain a year) causing a high level of hydrogeological instability and by several initiatives putting additional pressure on water and riparian areas. The objective of the pilot case study within the SPARE project is to support implementation of integrated river management and to promote inter-sectoral cooperation between different actors and decision makers, by harmonizing the importance of intact river ecosystems supported by Soča and the sustainable development of human use requirements.

4.Soca collage


DROME: The Drôme is a submediterranean torrential river of French Southern Alps characterised by substantial floods in winter and drying up in summer. The catchment area is covering 1670 km² and it is mainly rural. In 1997, the Drôme river was already the French pilot for the “SAGE” (Water development and management scheme), designed to balance river ecosystem protection and economic development (tourism, agriculture, and urbanization). In the past decades (1997-2007), the SAGE was allowed to solve various conflicts concerning different river uses and currently it has to be updated. The SPARE project will assess how the range of participation of local communities could be further extended, including all inhabitants of the catchment, trying to apply a more widely shared design of management practices and of solutions to adopt in order to improve the actual protection of river ecosystems.

2.Drome collage


Please note that this website will be progressively updated during the project: therefore, we invite you to periodically visit it.

For further information please consult the following website: http://www.alpine-space.eu/projects/spare

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