Public participation means giving the general public possibilities to have an impact on the results of river basin management plans and the course of work connected with their implementation. However, it should remembered that there are different levels of such influence. The Water Framework Directive provides three forms of public participation: information, public consultation and active participation.
Access to information constitutes the basis for publicparticipation in water management planning. The Water Framework Directive and the Water Law Act do not impose the obligation of active information, it only obliges to giving the access to it.
Public consultations are the process in which the general public has the opportunity to express the opinion on planning documents prepared by the authorities. Consultations do not give the participants the possibility for direct participation in taking decisions, and their comments do not have to be taken into account.
Active public participation is the process in which the general public has the possibility for having influence on the decision-making process through discussion of the particular issues and proposing their own solutions.
The Water Framework Directive obligates to make information available and to conduct public consultations at particular stages of planning, however, it does not impose the obligation of public participation, but it obligates to encourage to active participation.
Particular forms of public participation do not exclude each other, but they complement each other: access to information is the basis for all other forms of public participation, public consultations are at the same time the method of informing the general public and active participation initiates and supports the consultation process. Each of these forms can be used at every stage of the water management planning process. However, what is important is the choice of a suitable form regarding the set objective and receivers. For example: active participation of the representatives of stakeholders concerning identification of the essential issues of water economy, consultation with water users in order to choose optimal action plans, informing the general public in order to increase awareness.