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News article26 July 2021

Water management: Commission consults to update lists of pollutants affecting surface and ground waters

Today, the Commission has launched an online public consultation to seek views on the upcoming review of the lists of pollutants occurring in surface and ground waters and corresponding regulatory standards. This initiative is particularly important for implementing the recently adopted Zero Pollution Action Plan as part of the European Green Deal, and wider efforts to secure the more efficient and safer use of water. The public consultation is open for feedback until 1 November 2021.

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

All Europeans should benefit from clean water. Ensuring good quality of surface and groundwater in Europe is paramount for human health and for the environment. Pollution caused by pesticides, PFAS or from residues of pharmaceuticals must be avoided as much as possible. We want to hear your views on how this can best be achieved.

A recent ‘fitness check’ (evaluation) in December 2019, found EU water legislation to be broadly fit for purpose. However, improvement is needed on aspects such as investment, implementing rules, integrating water objectives into other policies, chemical pollution, administrative simplification and digitalisation. This revision aims to address some of the shortcomings in relation to chemical pollution and the legal obligation to regularly review the lists of pollutants. It also seeks to address the need to accelerate implementation (including through use of digital tools) and support EU countries in addressing issues with polluting substances that prevent them from meeting the legal obligations and achieving environmental objectives.

This initiative also contributes to the implementation of the European Union Strategic Approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment and complements the planned Strategies on Chemicals for Sustainability and Pharmaceuticals as well as the parallel impact assessments for improving the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, the Industrial Emissions Directive and the implementation of the new Drinking Water Directive.


Since 2000, the Water Framework Directive has been the main legal instrument to protect Europe’s water, aiming to clean polluted waters and keep clean waters clean. Alongside the Environmental Quality Standards Directive (EQSD), the Groundwater Directive (GWD), it applies to fresh, coastal and transitional waters as well as groundwaters. It ensures an integrated approach to water management, respecting the integrity of whole ecosystems, including by regulating individual pollutants and setting corresponding regulatory standards.

More Information

EU Water legislation

EU Water legislation - Fitness Check

Public consultation on EU rules protecting the marine environment – taking place in parallel


Publication date
26 July 2021

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