Austrian Water Management Faces Uncertain Future


Starting today, experts will be discussing the future management of water resources in Austria in the framework of the ÖWAV- Forum 2005 - “Water Management and Policy - Structures, Control and Financing”.

Specifically it is the impending effects of the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive which will massively affect hydropower. A policy of moderation with regard to this implementation should be adopted to make the most of the possible scope of development. At the same time, the operating companies in Austria are grappling with a flood of laws and obligations imposed by the authorities, with the EU law prevailing over the national legislation.

The Austrian water management is undergoing a radical change which is best described by two simple words: Ecology vs. utilization. “The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) is changing fundamentally the orientation of planning in the management of water resources in Austria. It is clearly ecology-oriented and wants the exploitation of waters to play only a minor role”, explains Dr. Herbert Schröfelbauer, Chairman of the Board of Management of VERBUND-Austrian Hydro Power AG (AHP). This applies particularly to the production of hydroelectric power, which faces an uncertain future, especially due to the morphological changes in the rivers and lakes. Using the full scope of development offered by the WDF as best possible with regard to Austria’s economy as a whole will be essential. “Any overzealous ambition to present ourselves as a model country in the European Union on that score is certainly uncalled for. Such an approach would dramatically reduce the economic efficiency of hydroelectric power plants, jeopardize the viability of many Austrian hydropower producers and, moreover, bring no advantages for the consumer but a rise in price for electricity”, adds Michael Amerer, member of the AHP Board of Management.

The policy makers should adopt a moderate approach for the implementation and at the same time provide for a stable, long-term organizational framework to avoid an adverse effect on the whole Austrian water management.

According to Mr. Hans Haider, VERBUND CEO and Chairman of the AHP Supervisory Board, a stable legal framework is the key for the future of the water management in Austria. “The AHP generating plants have maximum availabilities and rank among the safest plants in the world. This is the result of many years of work and know-how in this sector. It would have been impossible without our competent and excellently trained staff”. AHP constantly endeavours to even increase this high standard, for example by collaborating with the ÖWAV in the courses for dam attendants or with the Essen-based Association of Large Power Plant Operators (VGB) in the planning and active cooperation in training control room operators.

The ultimate goal is to work out within this organizational framework an optimal master plan to ensure a safe and affordable power supply in Austria in the future. Mr. Haider wound up by saying that “The lawmakers would be ill-advised to bring about a break in the system by forced, short-sighted changes in the law. The water management in Austria needs a stable framework to be able to appropriately develop its advantages."