orb valley

visual description of region | characteristics of region | main sub regions
institutions | process analysis | details of case studies

This case study will focus on the river contract for the Orb valley in the West of the Herault department in southern France. The main economic activities along this river are agriculture and tourism. Extraction of gravel from the river bed is modifying the river’s course quite significantly, causing effects for other activities. Tourism especially is very sensitive to the quality of the water for fishing and bathing, the water flow for canoeing, fishing and dilution of effluents, and the quality of landscapes for trekking and camping in the upper valley. The two main policy questions are: What local hydrological management measures should be devised? How can the diversity of interests and the differing scales of interventions required be reconciled?

3 main issues

  • Floods and river course remediation
  • Water quality & sanitation
  • Low water resource management

visual description of region

characteristics of region

    value unit
Physical Environment
  Location southern France, Mediterranean basin    
  WB area 1573 kmú
  max alti 1100 m
  min alti 0 m
  main city BŽziers  
  Temperature avrg 10 (up) - 14 (down) ¡C
  Source alti 825 m
  outlet Mediterranean sea  
  main river length 136 km
  main sub rivers MARE, JAUR, VERNAZOBRE, LIROU  
  low water outlet discharge 2 m3/s
  swell outlet discharge 2400 m3/s
  annual swell outlet 860 Mm3/yr
  swell average outlet 27 m3/s
  rainfall average (lame d'eau) 647 mm
  max rainfall 1500 mm
  min rainfall 600 mm
  50 years return peak rainfall 200-300 mm/24h
  rainfall global 1300 Mm3/yr
ETP (evapotranspiration)
  estimated ETP 600 Mm3/yr
  DŽpartement HŽrault  
  Communes 89  
  population 160000 inhb (1990)
  BŽziers 70000 inhb (1990)
  main features    
    gravel bars  
    livestock in the upper  
    vineyards in the lower  
    Tourism (nature, sports, thermalism and beach) industry (food transformation)  
Decision stakeholders drinking water synd  
    hydropower plants  
    Canoo groups  
    gravel bar environment  
    NGOs tourism professionals riverside residents associations Chamber of Commerce Chamber of Agriculture state administration elected people private consultants BRL banks Syndicat Mixte de la vallŽe de l'Orb  
Avene source area    
Bedarieux & surr.    
Mare valley    
confluence orb -mare    
AOC faugeres    
jaur valley    
vernazobre valley    
orb colombieres --> reals    
gravels area    
lirou & taurou    
beziers --> sea    

main sub regions



Institutions in this case study are difficult to describe according to this classification due to the small size under study and to the specific way of management which actually raised our interest for this area.

Institutions may be described according to their scale of action, to their level of organisation and to their rate of private/public character

Several institutions with a scope larger than SMVO are acting in the area either locally and/or through global decisions with local consequences :

  • public : European Commission, French agriculture, environment, equipment and industry departments directly and through their local representative, regional and departmental administration and water bodies á
  • semi-public : EDF, BRL, Chambers (industry and agriculture), CSP
  • private : fresh water companies, environmentalist lobbies, farmers unions, sports associations

Local institutions have also a strong influence in the dynamic of the system : á public : SMVO (+ informative board), municipalities

  • semi-public : parc rŽgional du Haut Languedoc
  • private : local environmentalist lobbies, local sections of farmers Unions, irrigators associations, riverside residents association, fishers association, professional of tourism, sports associations


process analysis for each issue

What are the major questions that you would like to address with the model at the current stage of knowledge about the region and stakeholder interests?

  • to make available a discussion support system for negotiation among stakeholders, objective (in the sense in the hypotheses are explained) and synthetic (for main stakeholder SMVO and us)
  • to represent the dynamic of a specific dialogue mode for water management in order to analyse it (for us) and to give insight on the whole process (for main stakeholder, SMVO)

How do you intend to organize the participatory process with specific reference to problem specification?

  • analysis of former studies
  • interviews
  • collective restitution of results in the frame of the consultative body accompanying the river contract

What are the major uncertainties you are currently aware of and how do you intend to deal with these uncertainties?

The major uncertainty is the evolution of activities and population in this area. Middle term uncertainties are the evolution of the regulation with the new water law of 2001 and the Rhone/Barcelone aqueduct impacts if it will be carried out.


details of regional case studies

  • Available datasets / short characterizations
    • available in Cemagref : rains and discharges (daily) ; BD topo & carto, Corine Land cover, RGA, SIREN, INSEE
    • not yet available in Cemagref but possible to acquire if necessary : data relative to activities in the area
  • Historical account about the major developments over the past decades that are of relevance to embed the case study in a larger picture (changes in regulatory framework, public perception, financial situation, environmental situation)
    • evolution of population and activities
    • evolution of regulation of water management

La perception a du aussi sacrement Žvoluer, notamment sut l'amont du bassin o dans un contexte minier (vallŽe de la mare + rŽgion de BŽdarieux), l'eau permet d'Žvacuer les dŽchets.


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