Case study on river management: Loire
The Loire has frequently been characterized as "the last wild river in western Europe" owing to the relative absence of large dams and the consequent semi-natural condition of the river, notably in its upper reaches.
The main channel is more than 1,000 km in length and the total hydrographic network extends to more that 135,000 km.
The basin covers a total area of 155,000 km² or 22% of French territory.
The Loire basin has more than 11.5 million inhabitants but is markedly rural in character, with more than one-third of communities having fewer than 400 inhabitants.
The basin is extremely important for farming, supporting two-thirds of livestock raising and half of all cereal production in France.
Some 350,000 ha of farmland in the basin are irrigated.
The Loire itself is used for navigation, generation of hydro and nuclear power from 38 dams and four power stations, and recreation.
The estuary and its shoreline are important for fishing, shellfish farming and tourism, and there is a major commercial port at Nantes, which has caused severe damage to the Loire estuary's ecology.