The WFD recognizes the existence of specific uses with high economic and social value, whose developments imply hydromorphological changes into the water bodies of such magnitude that as a consequence, the good ecological status could not be reached as long as those uses are active.

The conflict between the necessity to give priority to the development of specific economic activities and the fulfilment of the environmental objectives of the WFD was solved by the introduction of the figure of the "heavily modified water bodies" (HMWB) that justifies the reduction of its environmental objectives to fulfil the named good ecological potential.

The explicit recognition of ports as a relevant economic and social use, and then, as potential heavily modified water bodies, have conferred them the chance to adapt their water bodies environmental objectives to the good ecological potential. Nevertheless, the environmental problems are not always solved by reducing the environmental requirements. In this context, nowadays ports are being subjected to a modification of management policies, more orientated towards the utilization of models, in which the economic and the environmental factors can be considered as development variables. Nevertheless, this goal can only be reached using management instruments which conjugate the social, economic, legal, technical and environmental demands along with the requirements of the WFD. In that sense, the first step in the development process was to design a scheme to answer three main questions: What has to be protected?, What does it have to be protected from?, and How can it be protected?

This way, the general objective of the project leads to the installation of a transnational tool allowing a balanced management of activities in harbour waters as well as a monitoring of the environmental quality in harbours. This project develops a methodology based on eight interrelated activities (see figure below) that concludes with its application on some strategic points of the Atlantic Area guaranteeing a wide spectrum of costal and hydromorphological characteristics.


This project intends to standardize a methodology for the water quality management in port areas through the achievement of the following specific objectives: 

  1. review of the European, State and Regional water quality normative; 
  2. development of a hierarchical procedure that integrates administrative, social, and physical aspects for the classification of the port water bodies in order to optimize their quality management;
  3. selection, development and validation of the physical, chemical, hydromorphological and social indicators required at the different stages of the project; 
  4. selection, development and validation of standardized methodological procedures for numerical modelling and spatial analyses; 
  5. establishment of a general framework for port water bodies Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) through the implementation of procedures of different complexity and specificity; 
  6. development of the port water quality assessment methods, 
  7. establishment of an iterative procedure for the best maintenance and/or improvement of ports water quality; 
  8. development of a tool that allows the processing, storage and interchange of all information related with water quality under a decision making perspective; 
  9. selection of some harbours in the Atlantic Area with different activities and environmental and socio-economic features in order to validate the developed methodology through case studies application.

One of the objectives that PORTONOVO intends to achieve is the installation of a Decision Supporting System (DSS) for the balanced management of activities in harbour waters as well as a monitoring of the environmental quality in harbours along the Atlantic Area. The achievement of this final goal, could be reflected in some expected benefits or outcomes such as: 

  1. future work lines for involved researchers, 
  2. establishment of a standardized methodology for the integrated management of ports' water bodies quality along the Atlantic Area,
  3. development of specific tools: a legislative and normative database; standard procedures for using water, sediment, and biota indicators in the management of port water bodies quality; specific modelling procedures and GIS based models; methodological procedures for ERA; Good Practice Manuals; and a DSS to manage harbour waters.  Finally, the communication of results will be placed on a website, open to the public and the professionals, as a sort of a "harbour water quality observatory".