BIGDATA 4RIVERS leads to smart river management policies in Portugal

A smart river management plan for the Minho river in Portugal was presented. Photo: Sergei Gussev

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Intelligent river management is set to maximise the healthy and sustainable use of the catchment areas of two rivers in northern Portugal. That’s due to the BIGDATA 4RIVERS project which ended in July 2023 after a four-year period of information and knowledge exchange between European regions to improve the quality of European rivers through smart water management policies.

The project closed with the presentation of a plan for the Minho and Lima rivers, building upon the current climate change scenario and valuing water as an indispensable resource for the economic, social and environmental development of the associated areas. The participating regions shared their Best Practices on a Interreg website. It includes IoT solutions for monitoring and controlling WWTP’s and a pilot testing activated carbon to remove emerging substances from wastewater.


The project ‘BIGDATA 4RIVERS – Improving the European Rivers Water Quality through Smart Water Management Policies’ was set up to assist in the implementation of the water directives with smart water management, based in information and communication technologies, to generate real-time information and to support a decision-making process.

Exchange experiences

Co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund it promoted an interregional learning process where partners were able to support each other based on their own experiences in the EU Water Framework Directives implementation. After more than two years of study visits and meetings to exchange experiences and analyze good practices around Europe, each of the seven BIGDATA 4RIVERS partner has developed a regional action plan for areas that include the Loire Valley, the Swedish region of Östergötland, and areas of Lithuania and Romania among other locations.

Portuguese rivers

The Portuguese project was co-led by the Alto Minho Intermunicipal Community (CIM Alto Minho), which borders Galicia; the major Minho river delineates some 80km of the border with Spain on its way to the Atlantic. The Lima river also rises in Galicia and crosses the border into Portugal through the reservoir created by the Alto Lindoso dam in 1992. One flooded village – Aceredo – re-emerged after three decades of being submerged following the drought in the winter of 2021 and made global headlines.

Economic value

The policy instrument of the CIM Alto Minho in the BIGDATA 4RIVERS project was the Alto Minho 2020 Strategy & Action Plan which was geared towards preparing a desirable future with respect for a past with identity. It included goals to make the region more competitive and attractive. Regarding the water management, that document had a strategic vision for valuing the region’s natural resources to ensure its sustainability and its competitiveness for various economic activities ranging from agriculture (where smart water management gaps remain), fishing and leisure).

Strategy for 2030

The strategy was implemented through an action plan which included the water-focused project ‘Improvement of quality, service, integration and efficiency of water supply systems and wastewater collection and drainage systems’. The new policy document for the region, called the Alto Minho 2030 Strategy, reinforces the role of water in the sustainable development of the region, not only as a support for the economic activities, but also for its role in the conservation of natural heritage and existing protected areas reflecting part of the knowledge acquired within the scope of the first phase of the BIGDATA4Rivers project. The action plan also seeks to influence regional public policy instruments in the current programming period 2021-2027, under the National Portugal 2030 Strategy.

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