Integrated Marine and Inland Water Management

Key facts

Programme Operator:
Ministry of Environment and Water
Programme ID:
Programme Donors
Norwegian Environment Agency (NEA)
Date of approval:
Total amount:
EEA Grants fund:
Norway Grants fund:
€ 0

Currently available funding

Programme Summary

Why was the programme needed? Bulgaria’s inland and coastal ecosystems provide vital services through food production, drinking water, recreational activities, and tourism revenues. Maintaining good environmental status of marine and inland waters is thus essential for Bulgaria. It will ensure that the resources that these ecosystems provide are maintained and with it the economic and social benefits deriving from them. As one of the countries bordering the Black Sea, Bulgaria has a shared responsibility for monitoring this vulnerable ecosystem and protecting it from pressures such as overfishing and pollution. The Black Sea is extremely vulnerable to pollutants mainly due to limited vertical movement of the water, large volume of fresh water inflow, and high extent of eutrophication, etc. An important increase in oil shipping activities is expected to take place in the Black Sea Region over the next ten years, increasing the Black Sea’s vulnerability to pollution from oil and oil products. There are a number of areas where pollution prevention needs strengthening through the effective implementation of control of ships as required under EU and international regulations, especially with regard to antifouling, prevention of the introduction of alien species into local sea areas by ships’ ballast water, prompt identification of, and response to oil and HNS spills. On the basis of this, the EEA Grants allocated 8 000 000 euros to the Bulgarian Integrated Marine and Inland Water Management programme to support the Bulgarian Government, more specially the Ministry of Environment and Water, in fulfilling legislative requirements (both national and EU-level) in marine and water management. Assisted by the Norwegian Environment Agency (Miljødirektoratet – NEA) as Donor Programme Partner, the programme focused on improving monitoring of marine waters, and on increasing the capacity for assessing and predicting the environmental status of marine and inland waters. The programme also included activities that aimed at better integration of water management in relevant policy areas. What did the programme achieve? Prior to implementation of the programme a large amount of data related to water management were stored in incompatible information systems existing run by several different entities. As a result, there was an inadequate systematic account of project results in the area of water management, often resulting in overlap of results and inefficient spending for improvement. Urgent actions were needed at the national and international level to solve the problem as integrated management and related decision-making is impossible without an information system that incorporates and analyses data from a variety of sources. The programme succeeded in filling information gaps under the Marine Strategy of Bulgaria, as well as creating assessment tools for water bodies in relation to fish-farming, mining, oil pollution, and hydropower, as well as increasing the scientific and administrative capacity for assessing and predicting environmental status in the Black Sea waters. One of the programme’s most important projects focused on developing a national geoinformation system for water management and reporting. The ‘Updating the Geo-information system for water management and reporting’ project implements Bulgaria’s National Strategy for water sector development through the development a modular geographic information system with a service-oriented structure capable of serving all institutions responsible for water management. The system maintains information on all surface, groundwater, coastal and transitional water bodies, data on chemical, environmental and quantitative status, objectives and indicators, as well as monitoring programs. With its advanced nature, the system facilitates data exchanges between national institutions relevant to water management and allows for automatic reporting under several EU Directives – including the directive on urban wastewater treatment. It supports the establishment of programs of measures to improve the condition of water bodies and monitors their implementation. The Norwegian project partner, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (Norges vassdrags og energidirektorat – NVE) was a vital contributor to the project. Bulgarian experts were able to gain in-depth knowledge on operation of water management systems in Norway, which gave valuable insight for the development of Bulgaria’s own system.  Another project established a Development Centre in the Naval Academy. The centre allows marine experts to test strategies and measures through simulations of real marine environment conditions as sea tides, currents, water noise, coast terrain, shelf, sea bottom, sun, wind and so forth. All simulations are based on real monitoring data. Thus the effect of any given measures can be assessed prior to a final decision. A volunteer search and rescue center has also been integrated in the facility. Moreover, the programme developed a pilot system for integrated flood prevention in the territory of Burgas municipality. Burgas City is situated on the Black Sea coast and is surrounded by three lakes (Vaya, Mandra and Atanasovsko) to the north and south, and is therefore particularly vulnerable to floods during heavy rainfalls. The information system for flood risk management, available at, is a major tool for monitoring of nearby water basins. It is equipped with an SMS early-warning function in case of dangerous water levels, enabling the administrators to send immediate warnings to a large number of people. The municipality of Burgas is the first municipality in Bulgaria with a fully integrated water monitoring network, covering its entire territory. The pilot system and the subsequent experience gained from its development and usage will be used by other Bulgarian municipalities for implementation of Directive 2007/60/EC requirements.How were bilateral relations strengthened? Bilateral relations were promoted both at the programme level through the inclusion and active participation of the DPP, and on the project level through the involvement of project partners. The support of the DPP was highly valuable in the pre-defined project ‘Updating of Geoformation system for water management and reporting‘. Thanks to the contribution and experience of the DPP the project developed an effective information system that now serves as the primary tool for water management in Bulgaria. To facilitate the partnership on programme and project levels, regular partnership and matchmaking events were organized well in advance to each call for proposals. The DPP provided institutional information and support necessary for the proper organization of calls for proposals including EEA project partners, as well as the proper monitoring of selected projects with EEA project partners. In addition, national level funds for bilateral relations and the programme level complementary funding were used for activities such as joint conferences, workshops, study tours and information activities, also involving programme operators and DPPs of other programmes, and EU level bilateral relations. The combined efforts and knowledge of scientists, experts and specialists from Bulgaria and the Donor states have resulted in the development of systems, monitoring plans, updates in equipment, and an exchange of knowledge and best practices that will be part of the basis for Bulgaria’s water management.What will be the impact of the programme? The programme enabled Bulgaria to implement requirements under several EU Directives, including the Flood Directive, INSPIRE Directive and Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, as well as the National Black Sea Marine Strategy. One of the projects that contributed to legislative compliance was the predefined project on developing a geoinformation system. In addition to ensuring compliance with the INSPIRE Directive, the system enables automatic reporting to the Water Information System for Europe (WISE). In the long run, the strengthened monitoring at local, regional and national institutions as well as the increased capacity with relevant entities for assessment and prediction of environment condition in marine and inland waters will greatly benefit the management of Bulgaria’s inland and coastal waters. The water protection and management protocols established under the programme will contribute to safeguarding these ecosystems and their economic and social benefits. The integrated water monitoring system of Burgas municipality, the first in Bulgaria, will be used to developed similar monitoring systems for other municipalities and is an important milestone for Bulgaria’s water management.