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A study of the application of the physical hydronomics methodology to assess environmental costs of European rivers

Javier Uche (CIRCE – University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain)
Amaya Martínez (CIRCE – University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain)
Beatriz Carrasquer (CIRCE – University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 8 April 2014



The purpose of this paper is to check out the status of collected data in European water-related information tools, with the final aim of analyzing the cost to reach the good environmental status in European rivers, from recorded physical and chemical data, within the second law of thermodynamics.


The study is especially focussed in an economical assessment to account for the environmental costs of water bodies according to the Water Framework Directive. The Catchments and Rivers Network System, the most important information tool in Europe nowadays, constitutes the support of this work. This study shows a methodology to estimate the cost to restore water bodies in energy terms with the help of an aggregated indicator, from physical and chemical characteristics of rivers. More over, energy results are converted later into an economic value. This work presents diverse case studies, starting from Garonne, Rhone, Rhine, Danube, Ebro and Seine rivers.


Figures show that total environmental costs in rivers with higher flows are more important due to the more quantity of water to be restored. Making a contrast among years with different hydrological behavior, total environmental costs are higher in wet years due to the more availability of water to be supplied that consequently implies higher withdrawals. However, rivers with higher total environmental cost are not necessarily the most polluted ones. Regarding to the availability of data, although European monitoring and reporting is in progress, homogeneity of data and consensus in the management of basins are needed.


Authors make an estimation of costs to reach the good status of European rivers. This work proposes the Exergy as an aggregate indicator to assess cost for water restoration in monetary values. This paper gives a reference of environmental cost as an important instrument to establish costs recovery prices, to be used in the management of water resources as a complement of other kind of indicators.



The authors greatly acknowledge the proactive EEA collaboration to develop this work. They also greatly acknowledge the financial support given to carry out this work, which is under the framework of the project ENE2010-18934, financed by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science.


Uche, J., Martínez, A. and Carrasquer, B. (2014), "A study of the application of the physical hydronomics methodology to assess environmental costs of European rivers", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 324-334.



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