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A victory for European blue; EU water legislation “fit for purpose”

River Germany

After a two-year rundown of EU Water Legislation, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Floods Directive (FD) have been found “largely fit for purpose”, along with the Environmental Quality Standards Directive (EQSD) and the Groundwater Directive (GWD). The Commission’s message is clear: “The objectives of the Directives are as relevant now as they were at the time of adoption of the Directives, if not more”. By finding the Directives fit for purpose, the possibility of making revisions is cast aside and the EU can continue its efforts to reach the objectives of the Directives. 

After a thorough analysis based on extensive stakeholder consultation and a supporting study, the Commission concluded that based on five key criteria – effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value – the WFD has successfully set up a governance framework governing more than 110000 water bodies in the EU through integrated water management, thereby reducing chemical pollution and slowing down water deterioration.  

However, implementation of the WFD has been significantly delayed with less than half of the EU’s water bodies to be considered in ‘good’ status, four years after the deadline for this goal. This delay is largely ascribed to “insufficient funding, slow implementation and insufficient integration of environmental objectives in sectoral policies” rather than to a deficiency in legislation.

Many targets are still to be reached through the WFD, and based on the Commission’s findings, progress can be expected to be steady, but slow. Hopefully, the momentum of the European Green Deal and the new River Basin Management Plan (2022-2027) will help Member States to improve their efforts and reach the WFD’s objectives. We would like to thank everyone that contributed to the consultation process.