Integrated River Solutions in Austria – LIFE IP IRIS

Helena Mühlmann hält vor vollem Publikum einen Vortrag über das Projekt LIFE IP IRIS.

New Approaches for Ecological Restoration and Enhanced Flood Protection

Integrated River Basin Management aims to align the goals and action programs of the National Water Management Plan with those of the Flood Risk Management Plan while simultaneously considering other uses and requirements of flowing waters. To achieve this, a tool known as the ‘Water Development and Risk Management Concept’ – abbreviated as GE-RM – was developed.

This is a planning instrument extensively tested within seven Austrian river basins under the framework of LIFE IP IRIS. In 8 pilot projects, action concepts for various rivers totaling almost 600 kilometers in length are being created through interdisciplinary planning processes. Initial construction measures to enhance the ecological condition and flood protection are already underway and are scheduled for completion by the end of 2025.”

New Approaches for Ecological Restoration and Enhanced Flood Protection

Project Planning & Structure

The IRIS project spans 9 years and comprises 4 phases.

Project Phase 1

Development of GE-RM Concepts in the Pilot Regions


Project Phases 2 & 3

Planning and Implementation of Measures


Project Phase 4

Evaluation of Project Results


Project Goals

Goal 1: Strategic Planning for Coordinated Implementation of the National Water Management Plan and Flood Risk Management Plan

Goal 2: Development of Action Concepts

Goal 3: Planning and Construction of Selected Morphological Measures

Goal 4: New Approaches for Integrated Monitoring

Ziel 5: Capacity Building

Goal 6: Public Relations and Awareness Building

Pioneering in River Basin Planning

With the new planning tool ‘River Development and Risk Management Concept – GE-RM,’ Austria is venturing into uncharted territory in many respects. Instead of various, sometimes conflicting individual projects along water bodies, aquatic ecology and flood protection are collaborating on goals and action concepts for the respective river basin.

Whenever needed, relevant fields including nature conservation, spatial planning, tourism, fishing, and even hydroelectric power usage are involved in the planning process. For the first time, planning extends across state borders. The GE-RM action concepts harmonize the objectives of the National Water Management Plan and the Flood Risk Management Plan. In the future, the GE-RM planning will be implemented nationwide establishing professionally competent networks and implementation capacities.


First Integrated EU-LIFE Project in Austria

The Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management (BML) sought financial support from the EU funding program LIFE as early as 2017. In late 2018, the project ‘LIFE IP IRIS AUSTRIA – Integrated River Solutions in Austria’ was approved by the European Commission.

LIFE IP IRIS is the first Integrated LIFE project in Austria. A total of 16.5 million euros are available during a project duration of 9 years (2019-2027). Of this amount, the EU provides 10 million euros. The project is headed by the Water Management Division of the BML. Project partners include the water management administrations of the states of Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, and Burgenland, as well as viadonau (Austrian Waterway Company GmbH) and the Federal Environment Agency.

LIFE is an EU funding program that exclusively supports environmental and nature conservation projects. Since the start of the LIFE program in 1992, the European Commission has supported 110 projects in Austria. Out of a total of 305 million euros, 133 million euros were provided by the European Union. Integrated LIFE projects (‘LIFE-IP projects’) were introduced into the funding program in 2014. They serve the direct implementation of EU environmental and climate plans and strategies.

First Integrated EU-LIFE Project in Austria