Today's European public action in the field of water is structured around different inter-connected decision-making levels. It is mainly guided by shared concepts and methods introduced by the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted in 2000. The WFD promotes the integrated management of water resources at the river basin scale. Its local translation into processes, decisions and operational actions is facilitated, or constrained, by local conditions. This is particularly true in the Mediterranean, where water resources have been significantly modified in space and in time by human intervention. This paper revisits river basin management, through the Durance River system case study. It analyses how this concept adapts to the local particularities of the territory and more widely to the Mediterranean basins. The analysis is based on literature reviews complemented by semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders of the Durance socio-hydro-system. By focusing on the river basin management size, the analysis investigates (i) the interaction across spatial scales and time and (ii) the local forums for public action. Combining historical and theoretical elements that originate from the authors' past research, the analysis proposes a multi-scalar representation of today's governance. It focuses on the issues of the territory, on the intervention scales and on the necessary synergies between governance levels. Particular attention is given to institutional arrangements that are developed for bridging water management actions across different decision-making levels. Finally, the paper discusses possible institutional and operational conditions that would allow for effective water governance and cross-sectorial interconnections, in line with the spirit of the WFD.
Key words Water territory, river basin management, cross-scale governance, problem-shed versus water-shed, WFD, solidarity, water transfer, Mediterranean basin, Durance