Rivers2Restore identifies key river restoration projects that could lessen the impact of floods & droughts

Posted on July, 02 2024

WWF’s new Rivers2Restore report is urging immediate action to restore Europe's rivers to their natural state and help deliver the EU’s recently agreed nature restoration targets. Restoring rivers - for example by removing dams or allowing the river to take its natural course - helps limit climate disasters like floods & drought by absorbing excess water during heavy rains, and replenishing groundwater which is released slowly during droughts.
Rivers2Restore is a collection of 11 projects selected by WWF across Europe that, if implemented, could make up 2,200km of restored rivers. Together, they could meet nearly 10% of the EU Biodiversity Strategy’s target, enshrined in the just-agreed Nature Restoration Law.

“The EU Nature Restoration Law requires Member States to reconnect at least 25,000 km of Europe’s rivers by 2030 which could mean we are on the cusp of a big turn-around to restoring, rewilding and revitalising our waters. Rivers2Restore flagship projects are timely efforts to breathe life back into hundreds of kilometres of Europe’s rivers. I call on decision makers to show the ambition needed to make these projects a reality for nature, for people and for a more climate and water resilient Europe,” said Lan Wang-Erlandsson, PhD Theme leader and researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. 

"Restoring the natural shape, habitats, and flow of rivers is not just about protecting nature, it's about protecting ourselves," said Claire Baffert, Senior Policy Officer, Water and Climate Adaptation, at WWF European Policy Office. "Healthy rivers play a vital role in mitigating floods, preventing droughts, and supporting biodiversity. They are also essential for thriving economies, recreation and ensuring plentiful clean water for drinking and farming."

Rivers that are restored, also improve water quality, biodiversity, carbon storage and they regulate temperatures. Limiting climate disasters can also save lives and costs - the recent floods in Germany led to six casualties and emergency public funding for uninsured people amounting to at least €100 million.

WWF is calling on:

National Governments to:
  • Include Rivers2Restore projects in National Restoration Plans.
  • Facilitate permitting, secure funding, and broaden river restoration efforts beyond these projects.

The European Commission to:
  • Support and encourage national governments to prioritise river restoration, including by establishing a nature restoration fund.
  • When reviewing National Restoration Plans, request revisions if insufficient ambition on river restoration is shown.
  • Make climate and water resilience a priority for the next mandate.

Read the report: “Rivers2Restore: how restored rivers strengthen our resilience to climate change”.