By the mid 1970s, expert bases for water management were prepared by the Institute for Water Management of the SRS (Zavod za vodno gospodarstvo SRS) and later on, after the Slovenian Association of Water Communities (Zveza vodnih skupnosti Slovenije – ZVSS) was established in 1975, by the ZVSS Professional Services (Strokovne službe ZVSS).
The founding of the Slovenian Association of Water Communities is associated with the transformation of the General Water Communities into water management companies and the rapid expansion of water management activity in Slovenia. Needs and requirements for engineering and project documentation relating to water management grew. In response, the idea emerged as early as 1976 of establishing a special organisation that would be able to provide suitable technical documents, primarily for the regulation and maintenance of water.
The founding of the organisation tasked with preparing expert bases and having a special public interest was carried out in two stages, which later on had a decisive impact on the development and operation of the Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia.
In stage one, the study group operating within the ZVSS Professional Services was transferred to the Laboratory for Hydraulic Engineering (Vodogradbeni laboratorij), which had been operating as an independent organisation at Hajdrihova ulica 28, Ljubljana since 1954. With the group’s transfer, all activities the study group was carrying out at the ZVSS were also transferred to the Laboratory for Hydraulic Engineering. In 1977, the Port of Koper Design Bureau (Projektivni biro Luke Koper) joined the Laboratory for Hydraulic Engineering.
Stage two of the founding of the Water Management Institute (Vodnogospodarski inštitut – VGI) was the transformation of the Laboratory for Hydraulic Engineering into the Water Management Institute, the central professional water management organisation in Slovenia, which was completed in 1978. The Water Management Institute had the status of a special public interest organisation and carried out contract work for water management companies, regional water communities, the ZVSS, the Port of Koper and other clients from the economic and non-economic sectors.
Seeing that the Institute operated at a profit, the decision was made to build a new office building for the study group and the Department for Marine Engineering next to the laboratory building of the Laboratory for Hydraulic Engineering.
The new VGI office building was built using the Institute’s funds and ZVSS donations – without any budget funds of the Republic of Slovenia.
The adoption of the new Institutes Act in 1990 that redefined public institutes in Slovenia as well as the change in the social system raised the issue of ownership, and the Institute was given the status of a public institute.
Despite the VGI receiving the status of a public institute, meaning it was now owned by the state, its operations did not change in any way. Since the state did not show any interest in the Institute’s operations or provide any direct funding for its operation and the maintenance of its office building, the public institute was transformed into a corporate entity in 1995 with the consent of the Slovenian government. Until mid-2003, during the period in which it operated as a corporate entity, the VGI was financed solely from its activities on the market.
However, the adoption of the new Waters Act in 2002 brought a reorganisation of some of the expert tasks related to water management in Slovenia. The Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia was nominated as the provider of expert development services related to water and was guaranteed funding by law from the newly established Water Fund. The Slovenian government found that the best way to establish the Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia would be to transform the VGI into the IWRS. With this, the corporate entity was again reorganised as a public institute, but this was the first time ever that it was guaranteed funds for its operations by way of an annual contract signed with the line ministry for waters (Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning).
Since 2003, the IWRS has been providing the following services:
- Drawing up management plans, issuing water rights and water permits, determining water and offshore land, defining waterside land parcels and tasks within the jurisdiction of the Ministry, such as preparing development programmes related to water, expert bases for drafting regulations, expert bases for creating professional records, expert bases for Ministry decision-making in connection with constructing water infrastructure, expert bases for protection against adverse effects of waters and expert opinions in connection with changes of water land and remediation measures.
- A significant step forward of the period was the IWRS focusing a greater share of its operations towards the implementation of EU projects.
- In 2003, the new regulation within the Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia introduced a new concept of operation and development of the sector, i.e. targeted research in coastal and marine protection through the application of best practices.
- The 2015 amendments of the Waters Act stipulate that the IWRS’ public service activities are limited to collaboration in preparing methodologies associated with drawing up water management plans and determining ecologically acceptable flows and other activities pursuant to the founding act.
- This means that the IWRS is again entering the market to a greater extent.