1. Project's introduction

The HydroEurope Project is based and developed on the close partnership between the academia and the professional sector. Differently from other theory-based Masters programmes, HydroEurope proposes a collaborative and innovative educational approach equipping participants with a combination of the necessary in-depth academic theoretical concepts and with an intensive practice approach and operational analysis of concrete case studies of various European catchments located in the project partner countries. The pedagogic approach is based on the team work with an international distribution of the team mates within the different participating institutions.

The Var is an Alpine torrential river with steep slopes. Located in the southeast of France, it has a total length of 114 km, with the Tinée, Estéron and Vésubie as its main tributaries. The Var rises near the Col de la Cayolle in the Maritime Alps and flows generally southeast – mainly through the Alpes-Maritimes with a short stretch in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence – into the Mediterranean between Nice and Saint-Laurent-du-Var.

From the early 19th century on until the 1960s the river was canalised over the entire length of the lower valley, reducing its width from about 1000 m / ⅔ mi (in average between valley slopes) to a mere 300 m, and even 200 m in the last stretch close to the sea. To compensate the lowering of the river bed as a result of the extraction of building materials, sills (fixed weirs) were constructed to bring the water table back to its original level.

On November 5, 1994, an extreme flood event caused the lowest and the second-lowest dams on the Var to collapse. The flood wave inundated parts of Nice, including Nice’s international airport which is situated near the river mouth. The airport lost the business of 50,000 passengers, with damages running up to an estimated 4.5 to 6 million euro. Elsewhere roads like the RN202 were cut, power and telephone lines were interrupted, and three people died and four disappeared.

In 1994 a new highway was planned, situated in part on the right bank of the Var. This would result in a further reduction of the river bed in the order of 10%.