Work visit to Targu Mures and Bucharest

From October 30 until November 3, it was time for the annual visit to Romania within the framework of the Blue Deal project Economic Mechanism. The location for the proceedings in 2023 was the provincial city of Targu Mures, situated in the heart of Romania, and to Bucharest.

Various topics were on the agenda during the workshop at the office of the Romanian water authority in Targu Mures (RBA Mures). Initially, we were warmly welcomed by the director of RBA Mures and the economic director, Calin Sara. Apart from the attendees in Mures, a mix of colleagues from Mures, Cluj, and Bucharest, Romanian colleagues also joined via a video link. Among them was Liliana Michineci, the economic director of the NARW.

Focus on project with World Bank

One of the main focuses for the Romanians at present is their project with the World Bank. One of the recommendations from the most recent report stemming from this project is currently highly relevant. It suggests imposing a solidarity levy (around 13 euros) for purposes such as water barriers, among others.

Taxation and communication

From this perspective, the Romanian side expressed a keen interest in learning more about the approach of Dutch Water Authorities regarding taxation and related communications. Therefore, Philip Daelmans from the Dutch water authority Limburg delivered a presentation on Dutch taxation, which was very well received. Following this, Bas Dingenouts presented on communication within the Dutch water authority Scheldestromen. Communication in the broadest sense, specifically emphasising raising awareness among the population about the tasks of the water authority and justifying the expenditures incurred. This presentation was also positively received and offered several points to delve into further in subsequent sessions.

Several workshops

Apart from discussions on the project with the World Bank, the Romanian side also gave presentations on topics such as risk management and the impact of new tax rates on the revenues for Romanian water authorities. These discussions were interspersed with visits to RBA Mures locations (such as a purification plant, dam, etc.). On Friday, the workshop concluded in Bucharest during a meeting at the headquarters of NARW, where Liliana Michineci welcomed us, expressing her delight with the collaboration and reflecting on yet another successful work visit.

It was agreed to plan 2 new work visits in 2024, one in Leiden, the Netherlands, in May, and another in Timisoara, Romania, in October. Alongside the topics discussed in this work visit, numerous other subjects will be on the agenda, such as the use of benchmarks and KPIs to measure performance. Altogether, it was once again a successful visit, providing a solid foundation for the visits in 2024. Onwards to the next year!

Meeting of Blue Deal and World Bank in Romania

The Blue Deal partnership Romania works with the World Bank to improve financing for water management in Romania. To this end, a digital and physical meeting with stakeholders took place from September 27 until September 29 in Bucharest.

A very interesting report drawn up by the World Bank with the best European practices for financing water management was discussed. During the meeting, Dutch Water Authorities advocated full cost recovery of Romanian water management. Of course, many other topics were discussed as well during these 3 days. Check the agenda to get an idea.

Working on drought in Romania

From the 2nd to the 6th of October, there was a meeting in Romania for the Blue Deal project Tackling Drought Romania (Southwest Romania). So, we are going to tackle the drought issue. But what exactly is drought? And when a project works on the drought problem, what do we mean precisely? Whose problem is it? And what can we do about it?

Watermelon (Pepene Verde) as cultural heritage

In Oltenia, drought primarily means there is insufficient water for agricultural purposes. And a significant agricultural product in Oltenia is the watermelon. The Dabuleni watermelon is a piece of cultural heritage in itself. So, transitioning to another – less drought-sensitive – agricultural product is not straightforward. The agricultural research institute in Dabuleni has developed a large number of alternative agricultural products, such as the Jujube, a small apple, but their application in the region is not automatic.

Deterioration of the irrigation system

A second challenge is the deterioration of the irrigation system that was established over 50 years ago, extracting water from the Danube. 62% of this irrigation system is no longer in use, and therefore, some farmers have switched to using groundwater. Restoring the irrigation system requires substantial investments, but a subsidy application from Europe was rejected. The reason being that the system is considered unsustainable. This is because the water is now pumped about 150 meters, resulting in significant water leakage and, of course, high energy costs. It must, therefore, be made sustainable.

Climate change

The third challenge is climate change. In Oltenia, this means a lower river flow from the Jiu River. It has also become warmer, and there is less direct rainfall on the land. The desertification in the region is often solely attributed to climate change, but it is questionable whether that is accurate. The Danube riverbed has been reduced, causing a large part of the former floodplain to no longer be submerged, resulting in drying up. This cannot be easily reversed given the functions now established in this area.

Lack of effective collaboration

Fourth, there is a lack of effective collaboration among the partners in the region. It’s mainly every man for himself, which means that joint solutions are not sought or are insufficiently explored. This is a legacy from the past when farmers were compelled to work together.

Groundwater issues

Fifth, the groundwater level is declining. This is related to the deterioration of the old irrigation system, prompting farmers to seek alternatives for irrigation. Part of the groundwater extraction is monitored through a permitting system, but the monitoring system is not yet fully comprehensive. Moreover, households (without permits) can have their own wells with limited capacity, and there is inadequate oversight of the actual water quantity extracted from these sources. A consequence of the low groundwater level is the declining quality of the soil for agricultural purposes.

What’s next?

First and foremost, it is necessary to restore the Sadova-Corabia irrigation system. This is not under the responsibility of the Ministry of Water (Apele Romane). The total area of the Sadova-Corabia irrigation system is 80,000 ha. Because there are no major investments possible, several investment requests are being processed through the Ministry of Agriculture (ANIF). It seems that this will be successful, but the 2024 elections in Romania can change everything.

Connection between rivers

In the northern part of the pilot area, we are focusing on strengthening the connection between the Jiet River and the Jiu River. By widening and deepening the Jiet in combination with creating polders and retention basins, more water can be retained upstream. This water can sustain the northern irrigation area. Pumping from the Danube is not realistic for the northern sub-area, given the required sustainability and the demands investors have for such projects.

Consequences of groundwater extraction

Secondly, it needs to become clear what the consequences of groundwater extraction are. Therefore, we are working on mapping the water balance in the pilot area. For this purpose, we have held discussions with the National Hydrological Institute of Romania. They possess the necessary data. From the Ministry of Water, the requested dataset is seen as the standard for monitoring drought in Romania.

Restoring the source

We are also focusing on a small pilot project to restore a source area. This primarily involves the restoration of watercourses from that source area to the plots of the research institute in Dabuleni. We are also trying to involve other stakeholders to increase knowledge about and the use of institutional cooperation agreements.

In Bucharest, the project team has made agreements for the project’s continuation. Teams have been formed to focus on the work packages.

Bears on the road in Romania

Luzette Kroon, president of the Blue Deal, and Josette Van Wersch, member of the executive board of the Dutch water authority of Limburg, visited the Blue Deal partnership in Romania at the end of July.

There, after a visit to the largest hydroelectric power plant in Europe in Vidraru, Romania, they were surprised by a number of bears on the road (mountain route Transfagaran in the Carpathians). This was literally close! In Dutch, the saying ‘bears on the road’ means foreseeing a number of problems along the way. Of course, we don’t want to see these ‘bears’ during our Blue Deal cooperation.

Blue Deal and collaboration

Kroon: “The extreme heat in Bucharest has put our conversations about climate change in a special light. Floods, drought and a lack of clean water demand cooperation. That is not always self-evident in a country that emerged from a dictatorship not so long ago. It is good to see that steps are now being taken in the right direction. The Blue Deal initiates cooperation between all levels and regions.”


In Romania, a large part of the energy supply is covered by hydroelectric power plants. The Vidraru Dam, which was visited, has a capacity of 220 MW. The dam is 166 meters high, the arc length is 305 meters and it can store 465 million cubic meters of water. The mechanical parts of the dam are due for maintenance, but it has not been possible to find a party through a European tender that is able or willing to carry out this maintenance.

Generating energy with hydropower and meeting the water needs from the reservoirs are at odds during periods of drought. The use of a decision support system (Decision Support System) as an aid to better substantiate the choices to be made is therefore necessary. The Dutch water authorities have experience with this. In Arges-Vedea, the regional office of Apele Romane (Ministry of Water Romania) explained the water system and the applicable procedures for water management.

Better connections

The remainder of the short work visit also went well. Knowledge was shared about the current projects (Tackling Drought, Tackling Floods, Decision Support System and Economic mechanism). All these projects have a relationship with each other, which is why it was essential to have representatives from the different projects and regions together. The working visit contributed to a better connection between the various parties and the various projects.

Romania: training video on Nature-based Solutions

On May 23, the water consultancy company HKV and the Dutch water authority of Limburg provided a Nature-based Solutions training course for a delegation of colleagues from the Blue Deal partnership in Romania. Now they made a video of this training.

Panel for Romanian and Dutch water management is buzzing

On 1 and 2 February, the ninth Romanian-Dutch water management panel took place in the Netherlands. This was the first time since the start of the corona crisis.

A group of people is standing next to a dam in Romania, with mountains in the background.
A dam in Romania

The panel is intended to bring about knowledge transferring between the Romanian and Dutch water sectors. The basis is the Memorandum of Agreement between National Administration Romanian Waters (NARW) and Dutch Water Authorities (DWA).

Blue Deal Day

On 1 February, the panel was a guest at the Association of Dutch Water Authorities. Under the chairmanship of Luzette Kroon, board member International Affairs at the Association of Dutch Water Authorities, the focus of this day was on the Blue Deal projects in Romania. These projects improve water management in Romania for the challenges with drought, flooding and reservoir management.

The purpose of this day was a peer-to-peer review. For further development of the NARW/DWA partnership, explicit attention was also paid to: best practices in other Blue Deal partnerships, the possibilities of the Blue Deal congress that will be organized for all partnerships in June, the Communities of practices, and the training programme for employees of the Dutch water authorities who want to work internationally.

Day 2

The Dutch embassy in Bucharest organized a varied programme on 2 February in collaboration with Netherlands Enterprise Agency (in Dutch: RVO) and Rijkswaterstaat (the executive agency of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management). In the morning, the panel was a guest at RVO to get acquainted with companies and institutions from the Dutch water sector. In the afternoon, Rijkswaterstaat hosted a visit to the Maeslantkering, a storm surge barrier. In addition to a guided tour, Rijkswaterstaat also gave presentations on public-private partnership and tenders.

All in all, a water management panel with a rich harvest in which a lot of knowledge has been exchanged, new ideas for cooperation have arisen and mutual ties have been strengthened. A tenth panel will take place in Romania in 2024.

Members of the Romanian-Dutch water management panel

Lecture: solutions for complex water problems

The KIWI learning programme recently organised a lecture by professor Guy Alaerts about the unruly nature of international water management and solutions for complex water problems.

Water managers worldwide are looking for integrated solutions for complex water problems. Major investments are often required to become climate proof, but finding financing is difficult. Water managers and financial institutions do not know where to find each other and converting globally available financing into concrete projects on a large scale is difficult. Watch the lecture below. The lecture is in Dutch, but can be viewed with subtitles.

Study: water management knowledge exchange

TU Delft and Erasmus University, in collaboration with Dutch Water Authorities, have launched a study into water management knowledge exchange. The universities are investigating which lessons the Dutch regional water authorities take abroad.

Meeting room with people seated at tables for a traning session. One man is stood, giving a presentation.
Dutch Water Authorities and local partners attending a training session.

As part of the study into water management knowledge exchange university researchers are looking at the lessons learned at an individual level, group level and organisational level. The aim is to find out exactly what effect these lessons have on organisations.


A questionnaire is sent out via the Dutch Water Authorities foreign coordinators. It is hoped that insight can be gained into the possibilities and limiting factors of international knowledge sharing.

More on Dutch Water Authorities and knowledge exchange

Blue Deal Annual plan 2021

The 2021 annual plan of the Blue Deal programme has been approved by the steering committee. The partnerships will continue their work in 2021 to improve water management in 14 countries.

Two men inspecting a waste water treatment plant.

The focus of the Blue Deal Annual plan 2021 is on three crucial elements: sufficient knowledge and skills, a well-functioning organisation and collaboration with key stakeholders.

Online learning

As COVID-19 continues into 2021, the Blue Deal partnerships focus on online learning and training in the first six months. This is not easy in all countries, for example due to slow internet connections or recently initiated partnerships. Therefore, the partnerships also focus on additional local representation. Dutch Water Authorities hopes to physically meet its partners again in the second half of 2021.

More on the Blue Deal