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Environment

Water Framework Directive

Setting out rules to halt deterioration in the status of EU water bodies and achieve good status for Europe’s rivers, lakes and groundwater.

Overview

Citizens, nature and industry all need clean rivers and lakes, groundwater and bathing waters. The Water Framework Directive is about getting polluted waters clean again and ensuring clean waters are kept clean.

Since 2000, the Water Framework Directive has been the main law for water protection in Europe. It applies to inland, transitional and coastal surface 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. It is based on a river basin district approach to make sure that neighbouring countries manage the rivers and other bodies of water they share. 

Objectives

The key objectives of the WFD are set out in Article 4 of the Directive. It requires Member States to use their River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) and Programmes of Measures (PoMs) to protect and, where necessary, restore water bodies in order to reach good status, and to prevent deterioration. Good status means both good chemical and good ecological status.

Law

Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD)

The Directive covers surface water pollutants in two ways: by identifying and regulating those of greatest concern across the EU (the priority substances listed in Annex X to the WFD) and by requiring Member States to identify substances of national or local concern (river basin specific pollutants included by Member States in their River Basin Management Plans).

Environmental Quality Standards Directive (EQSD)

Member States must ensure that the Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) for the priority substances set in the Directive are met to achieve good chemical status in accordance with WFD Article 4 and Annex V point 1.4.3. They must set and meet EQS for the river basin specific pollutants as a component of ecological status.

Implementation

Many European river basins are international, crossing administrative and territorial borders. Therefore a common understanding and approach is crucial to the successful and effective implementation of the Directive.

River Basin Management Plans

These are the key tools for implementing the WFD. They are drawn up after extensive public consultation and are valid for a six-year period.

Other key documents and links to the reported River basin management plans - along with other important information from the process of implementing the Water Framework Directive are available here.

Several International River Basin Districts have also published River Basin Management Plans: Danube, Elbe, Ems, Finnish-Norwegian International River Basin District,  Scheldt / l'Escaut,  Sava Commission (ISRBC)

Working Group

The Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) aims to ensure the coherent and harmonious implementation of the directive. Within this framework, a technical working group was established. The CIS Working Group supports the implementation of the Directive, for example by producing guidance documents.

Guidance documents 

Guidance documents and technical reports have been produced to assist stakeholders to implement the WFD. Guidance Documents are intended to provide an overall methodological approach, but will need to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each EU Member State.

Here you can find the list of other Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) thematic documents available.

Useful links

List of national competent authorities and relevant national implementation websites.

Implementation Reports

Contact

For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.