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Project A cost-effective decision support system for management of boreal river basins

Finnish rivers are amongst the least polluted in Europe and many effective water pollution control measures have been developed. Nevertheless, the lack of an integrated tool for river basin management and the general lack of awareness of river ecosystems and water pollution by people living and working in the drainage basins have hampered pollution control efforts.

The “RiverLife” project was developed by an international consortium of specialist organisations (six universities, four regional environment centres, two research institutes and two SME´s) with experience in environmental modelling and the development of computer-based user interfaces. Its main purpose was to create a new, cost-effective, practical tool for sustainable river basin management, using an interactive computerbased Decision Support System.

Project number LIFE98 ENV/FIN/573
Acronym RiverLife
Geographical coverage Finland
Budget (in €) 853709
Programme LIFE
Web site

The LIFE-Environment "RiverLife" project “A cost-effective decision support system for management of boreal river basins” (LIFE98 ENV/FIN/573) was developed to maintain or improve the clean status of Finnish rivers and to promote ecologically sustainable land-use, develop assessments of river status, and improve environmental awareness of the ecological impacts of land-derived loading on river ecosystems.

Known as “RiverLife”, the project recognised that the load of suspended solids, nutrients, metals and acidifying substances from land-uses including agriculture, forestry and peat production impact on all levels of a river's ecosystem and that to counter these negative effects, the river basin needs to be seen holistically and full use made of existing water pollution control measures.


The project created and tested an innovative, interactive computer-based decision support system, the RiverLifeDSS. The system contains information on river biota and their habitats. It examines the impact of land-derived loading on water systems and the effects of measures against non-point pollution including sedimentation basins, buffer zones and wetlands. Working on three Finnish rivers – Siuranjoki, Simojoki, and Kyrönjoki – the project demonstrated a cost-effective way of assessing river status and measures to promote sustainable river basin management.

As a result of the tool, the team drew up proposals for ecological monitoring, management and pollution control in the three river areas highlighting and promoting the most effective pollution control measures and ecological beneficial land-use. In the River Kyrönjoki, an automated river monitoring and control system was tested providing continuous, detailed information on water chemistry and hydrology, enabling the authorities to respond quickly to any deterioration in water quality by adjusting the river flow.

The project drafted guidelines for general river basin management that would be useful to any authority planning land use or any body – including businesses – engaged in activities based on the good value of rivers as places of recreation or nature, particularly at local level. The project was fully in line with the EU objectives of integrated management of drainage basins and sustainable land use.

Wide dissemination of the project results was carried out through articles, seminars and conferences, as well as the project website, project publications and a video. The experience and results of the project, including the DSS tools have been used extensively by subsequent projects in related fields, including under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). Certain aspects of RiverLIFE were also included in another very successful LIFE-Environment project led by the same beneficiary, Bothnian Bay LIFE (LIFE00 ENV/FIN/646)

Period [01/09/1998 - 01/09/2001]

Funding sources

  • European Commission
    Beneficiary: North Ostrobothnia, Regional Environment Centre
    Total eligible cost: EUR 853,709.13
    EC Contribution: EUR 411,995.33
    Source LIFE report:
    Programme LIFE
    Funding rate 48