Good governance and innovative financing for the Brenta River.

  • Learn about our approach to Natural Resources and Area Governance (GRAN)

  • ETRA S.p.A
    Municipality of Carmignano di Brenta
    Veneto Agricoltura
    University of Padova
    Consiglio di Bacino Brenta
    Veneto Acque

The Medio Brenta area, which extends along the course of the river Brenta between Vicenza and Padua, is recognised at a European level and included in the Natura 2000 network for its environmental and cultural importance. The area is also strategic for providing various ecosystem services, including drinking water: it is the most crucial source of water supply in the Veneto region. 

However, the Middle Brenta requires complex management due to the number and variety of entities involved. The area also faces water conservation and biodiversity risks due to high water withdrawals, anthropisation, intensive agricultural land use, high recreational use and the effect of climate change.

The problem

LIFE Brenta 2030, a project funded by the LIFE – Nature and Biodiversity Programme of the European Union, will address the following set of problems affecting the fluvial area of the Middle-Brenta:

The absence of a local managing body that can see to the management of natural capital, together with the reduction in public spending for the establishment of new Parks in the regional territory, worsened the already degraded conditions of the fluvial area.

The regional water management body defined the Middle-Brenta area as a strategic source for drinkable water provision: this area supplies 30% of the drinkable water needed by the whole region. In the context of the project “Derivazione dalle falde del Medio Brenta” (meaning “Water abstraction from Middle-Brenta groundwater tables”) 7 new wells for drinkable water abstraction were set up, but the groundwater-recharge and mitigation measures adopted were not sufficient to reassure local bodies.

The area is characterized by a high population density (about 509/inhabitants/km2). The lack of regulation and awareness caused the recreational use of floodplains and basins to be of disturbance for several animal species and led to the damage of habitats due to waste dumping and damage due to trampling.

The area of the Brenta River is characterized by a strong agricultural vocation: about 43% of the land is cultivated and the crisis of the sector favours the spread of unsustainable management practices.

The results of our commitment

Governance: a shared vision for the future of the Middle Brenta area  

Through the involvement of the 15 local municipalities, the LIFE Brenta 2030 project developed a model of good governance for the Medio Brenta, focusing on three fundamental elements of the area: water, biodiversity and recreational aspects. 

Working on the three components of governance according to our GRAN approach, we achieved the following results: 

  • Institutional governance: The assignment to the Consiglio di Bacino Brenta, formerly the governing body of the Integrated Water Service (IWT), of the management delegation of the Natura 2000 site “Grave e zone umide del Brenta” (first case in Italy). 
  • Functional governance: The integration of the conservation measures for the protection of the Natura 2000 site “Grave e Zone Umide del Brenta” in the programme of interventions of the Area Plan.
  • Economic governance: The definition of a financing scheme for the integrated management of the Natura 2000 site includes a tariff component (Environmental and Resource Costs, ERC) and other public and private financing.

An innovative financing mechanism: the internalisation of ERCs in the tariff water tariff

A Payment for Ecosystem Services has been developed, tested and implemented to protect biodiversity and conserve water resources. The mechanism compensates for the negative environmental impacts caused by water consumption by end users, according to the polluter/user pays principle.

The mechanism is based on the identification, at the basin level, of so-called Environmental and Resource Costs (ERC).

  • Environmental Costs are the costs related to the damage that the very use of water resources causes to the environment, the ecosystem or other users. They are defined as the expenses, interventions, and obligations to restore, reduce or contain the damage produced by water use. They will be charged directly to the party using the resource or benefiting from a water service.
  • Resource Costs, on the other hand, are the costs of lost opportunities imposed on other users due to intensive exploitation of resources beyond their level of restoration and natural turnover. 

Mitigation and compensation for these costs can be integrated into the water tariff, generating a sustainable and fair funding source for biodiversity and water conservation in the Brenta.

A replicable methodology

To enable this integration, a standard and replicable methodology has been developed that includes:

  • The analysis of impacts and pressures on and by the IIS (Integrated Water Service), such as impacts on groundwater and biodiversity and pressures from the agricultural and industrial sectors;
  • The definition of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) is capable of preventing such impacts. This includes, for example, hedges, thickets, Infiltration Forest Areas, and organic and conservation agriculture.
  • The adjustment of tariff items to include the costs associated with these measures in the water tariff. 

This methodology was then applied by including one million euros of environmental mitigation measures in the Area Plan by valorising them as ERC. The tariff proposal was then approved by ARERA, making this case an absolute innovation at a national level.

For more information on the LIFE Brenta 2030 project and its results, you can visit and consult the publication “Drinking Water and the Environment: Towards a Zero Impact Water Service”. 

Etifor, as a promoter of the initiative and ETRA, handled the technical research and development activities and the animation, consultation and training in the area.

The project is now in its replication phase: do you manage an area where water is a crucial resource, and would you like to improve its management? We are looking for water utilities or supervising bodies with which to adapt and apply this methodology. If you are interested, please get in touch with us. 

If you are more interested in governance aspects, discover our service.