What is the EU Water Framework Directive?
In Europe, water resources are subject to different pressures. Economic activity, population growth and urbanisation put increasing pressure on freshwater resources everywhere in the continent. It is thus necessary to have a regulatory framework to preserve water resources.
The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted in 2000, uses a pioneering approach to water protection, based on natural water catchments; specifically, river basins. The Directive requires Member States to prepare River Basin Management Plans in order to safeguard each of 110 existing River Basin Districts.
It emerged to meet the need to harmonise water management actions across the European Union.
The main purpose of the Directive is to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater, with the following objectives:
- Prevent further deterioration and protect and enhance the status of aquatic ecosystems and, with regard to their water needs, terrestrial ecosystems and wetlands directly depending on the aquatic ecosystems.
- Promote sustainable water use based on a long-term protection of available water resources.
- Aim at enhanced protection and improvement of the aquatic environment, inter alia, through specific measures for the progressive reduction of discharges, emissions and losses of priority substances and the cessation or phasing-out of discharges, emissions and losses of the priority hazardous substances.
- Ensure the progressive reduction of pollution of groundwater and prevent its further pollution.
- Contribute to mitigating the effects of floods and droughts.
In order to address the challenges in a co-operative and coordinated way, the Member States, Norway and the European Commission agreed on a Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) for the Water Framework Directive, with the following key points:
- Information sharing.
- Development of guidance documents.
- Information and data management.
- Implementation, testing and validation.