The use of focus groups and citizens ́ juries in water management planning was the first attempt of this kind in Estonia. The River Dialogue project results make us to believe that these methods can be successfully used in environmental management.
Focus groups proved to be an effective approach that could be used on the water management planning stage to collect opinions of stakeholders about major issues in a river basin. Focus groups also helped to increase an awareness of water issues among participants and secondly participants had an opportunity to voice their opinions.
The Jury evaluation showed that the way people reached the recommendations has to be considered at least of similar importance as the recommendations themselves. The feeling that someone is so much interested in the opinions of citizens’, came as a surprise to a number of participants – it also evidences the fact that the ideas and methods of public participation are not yet wide-spread in Estonia. The case describes how local people, who are not specialists, can take part in discussions and decisionmaking process of complex environmental issues. It should be stressed that participation does not just happen. On the contrary, it must be actively encouraged, and river basin authorities must be prepared to devote time to careful planning and to invest meaningful financial and human resources. The process could be quite time consuming and expensive in the short-term, but it will save money in the longterm.
The case shows that new innovative approaches are necessary to be used to implement EU WFD under the IWRM principles.