Water monitoring: insufficient specifications by the ministry
Water monitoring comprises the monitoring of waters and water plants. In detail, this entails tasks such as the monitoring of emissions from sewage treatment plants into water bodies, the status of water bodies, flood protection or the protection and sanctuary areas for drinking water supply. The aim is to protect and improve water bodies through appropriate plant, status, quality and groundwater monitoring.
Today, the ACA published its report "Water Monitoring in Carinthia and Upper Austria" and detected differences in the two provinces in this regard. A regulation to be issued by the Federation in order to define uniform minimum standards for inspections of water monitoring was not available at the time of the audit. This resulted in the fact that the audited provinces fulfilled their responsibilities with regard to water monitoring in differing ways.
The audited period spanned the years from 2016 through to 2020.
Recommendation for minimum standards for inspections
At the time of the audit, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism was responsible for water monitoring. Its execution was in the scope of responsibility of the provinces. The auditors critically note that the ministry failed to define minimum standards for inspections related to water monitoring – namely the intervals, scope and frequency. Specifications on the content, scope and frequency of the inspections were only stipulated in the Water Status Monitoring Regulation (Gewässerzustandsüberwachungsverordnung). For essential areas such as water police supervision, however, the ministry had not provided any provisions to the provincial governors.
The ACA furthermore criticizes that the ministry failed to oblige the provinces to regularly report on the activities related to water monitoring at the provincial level. The auditors are of the opinion that due to the lack of information on the density and scope of inspections the ministry was not able to exert a controlling influence over water monitoring in the provinces.
The ACA therefore issued the recommendation to the ministry to define, jointly with the provinces, minimum standards for the execution of water police duties and for water status monitoring. Furthermore, a regular flow of information from the provinces on the activities of the water monitoring bodies in the main control areas should be ensured and such information should be used for control purposes.
Upper Austria: partly lacking documentation of on-site inspections
In order to fulfil the duties related to water status monitoring, regular on-site inspections must be carried out. In Carinthia, the auditors acknowledge the use of a database within the framework of the water information system for the documentation of water status monitoring. The ACA considers the database to be an appropriate IT solution and makes the critical point that in Upper Austria the documentation of the on-site inspections is partly lacking, inconsistent and stored in a decentralized manner in the water districts.
The province of Upper Austria should introduce a digital documentation of water status monitoring that supports the planning and management and apply such digital documentation for all on-site inspections across the province.
In Carinthia, the investigations showed only low pollution levels and at least good partial status in almost all watercourses. In Upper Austria, too, pollution levels were generally low, but diffuse nutrient inputs in intensively used agricultural areas had a negative influence on the material components of the ecological status.
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Report: Water Monitoring in Carinthia and Upper Austria (in German)
The ACA carried out an audit of water monitoring in the provinces of Carinthia and Upper Austria as well as at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism. The audit aimed at analysing and assessing the legal obligations in connection with water monitoring and their implementation, the organization of water monitoring in the audited provinces and the resources deployed therefor as well as the execution of the statutory tasks. The audited period spanned the years from 2016 through to 2020.