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Spatial planning, water and the Water Framework Directive: insights from theory and practice

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Water is fundamental to the health of the biosphere, strong economic growth and human social well-being. Despite its relative scarcity and absolute importance to life on earth, fresh water resources are often used inefficiently or polluted unnecessarily. Policymakers must work towards developing approaches to balance human demands for water with the water requirements of ecosystems. The European Water Framework Directive, which aims to encourage the sustainable management and protection of freshwater resources, brings this agenda into sharp focus in Europe. Land use change and environmental quality are closely related, and the nature and location of development can significantly influence both the generation and resolution of environmental problems. This places spatial planning, which provides a framework for regulating the development and use of land, in a strong position to affect water quantity and quality issues and thus to aid the achievement of the Directive's goals. In particular, spatial planning has an important function in integrating the use and management of land and water more closely than is presently the case. This paper explores the potential and actual role of spatial planning in addressing challenges associated with the water environment. This enables an assessment to be made of the extent to which spatial planning can help to meet the goals of the Water Framework Directive.
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Keywords: Europe; Water Framework Directive; case studies; spatial planning; water quality; water quantity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 December 2007

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