IDES - How floodplains clean the water of the Danube


How do floodplain areas along the Danube contribute to improving water quality and how can diverse interests be taken into account in their management across national borders? These questions are being researched by a consortium funded by the European Union under the leadership of the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany.

The project involves over 20 institutions from ten countries along the Danube (Germany, Austria, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Moldavia) that join forces in an EU-funded project (Danube Transnational Programme) to improve water quality in the Danube river and its tributaries by integrative floodplain management based on Ecosystem Services. 

The IDES project was officially launched on September 8th during a virtual event bringing together key stakeholders and international project partners to focus on the project’s main topic.


From its source to its mouth in the Black Sea, the Danube covers a distance of more than 2,800 kilometres, flowing through ten countries, and its water even comes from 20 different countries. Thus, more than 80 million people live in the catchment area of the river, and - just like flora and fauna - are dependent on a good water quality.

"The flow of nutrients in water does not stop at national borders. That is why it is our concern to jointly establish strategies for comprehensive water quality management with this international project. The floodplains along the Danube play a key role in this, as they are able to retain nutrients" explain Prof. Dr. Bernd Cyffka, head of the Floodplain Institute at Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt.

Floodplains have many roles and tasks

Rivers and their floodplains have many roles and tasks: they serve as shipping routes and recreational areas, as protection against floods and drinking water reservoirs, and as habitats for plants and animals. All these different types of use are planned and regulated individually by different technical authorities at different administrative levels - this makes it difficult to maintain an overview or coordinate management measures. 

"The aim of the IDES project is therefore to adopt a comprehensive perspective that takes this important aspect into account for the first time. The participating researchers are focusing on five pilot regions in Austria, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Hungary. In these regions, we seek to develop an integrated concept for the management of floodplains in close collaboration with decision-makers, which will make the diverse and mutual ecosystem services of floodplains transparent - as a basis for future handling of such areas." – sais the research assistant, Dr. Barbara Stammel.


The IDES project aims to develop and implement a transnational integrative ecosystem service approach to improve water quality management and thus, generating win-win-situations for multifunctional floodplains instead of trade-offs. The IDES tool should enable the national key actors in water quality management to identify the most sustainable measures without neglecting the needs of other sectors. The innovative IDES tool will provide both in pilot areas and on the transnational level an ecosystem service assessment for floodplains that supports sustainable decision making in floodplain management.

During the two-and-a-half-year implementation timeline, the innovative actions will focus on the  following:

1. Analysis of the actual situation of water quality and its pressures and of ecosystem services in the whole Danube region by geographical explicit models, GIS analysis and literature review. Harmonization of different approaches and joint development of the framework of an ecosystem service evaluation tool (IDES tool) on basis of these enquiries.

2. Stakeholder workshops in five pilot areas in Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia and Romania where innovative water quality management concepts will be elaborated and assessed by the newly developed IDES tool. The results and the experience on the implementation of the IDES tool will be summarized in the IDES manual and transferred to key actors of the participating countries during national training courses.

3. Joint developing of a transnational strategy providing the operational pathway to integrate the ecosystem service approach in future water quality planning processes. Feedback from a transnational stakeholder workshop will help to fine-tune the IDES tool and strategy in the final phase and to foster its implementation.

The IDES project (Improving water quality in the Danube river and its tributaries by integrative floodplain management based on Ecosystem Services) is co-funded by the European Union (ERDF, IPA). For more information about it, visit the project website:



Barbara Stammel, project manager, Catholic University Eichstaett-Ingolstadt,

Alexandra Damian, communication manager, WWF-Romania,

Programme co-funded by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI)