POSITION | 12 key points for a strong Water Framework Directive and its implementation
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) has been the cornerstone of EU water policy for the past two decades. As such, it has contributed greatly to sustainable development at EU level and played a fundamental role in driving the EU’s efforts for water protection. Read our position after the publication of the European Commission's 'Fitness Check'.
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) has been the cornerstone of EU water policy for the past two decades. As such, it has contributed greatly to sustainable development at EU level and played a fundamental role in driving the EU’s efforts for water protection. In December 2019, the European Commission published its evaluation of the WFD (‘fitness check ’), concluding that the Directive is “broadly fit-for-purpose”, hence confirming the benefits of the text and its necessity to protect limited yet necessary water resources. Still, by noting that there is “room for improvement”, the European Commission acknowledges that, after twenty years of application, some issues in implementation and new challenges have emerged that need to be addressed.
Water operators treat water to required levels before returning it to nature and have responsibilities in the protection of catchment areas. Based on the expertise of its members - public water mangers providing water and sanitation services to over 70 million people in Europe - who are at the forefront of the implementation of the WFD, Aqua Publica Europea, the European Association of Public Water Operators, has outlined several proposals to contribute to the ongoing discussions and support strong legislation that can continue to bring benefits and also responds to the new ambitions of the EU Green Deal, presented in December 2019.
To support the efficient achievement of the WFD’s objectives and meet its ambitious targets for the ‘good status’ of water bodies, Aqua Publica Europea identifies proposals to foster better implementation at national level and the need to have up-to-date consideration of environmental risks, as both pressures and our knowledge of them have evolved in twenty years.
- Maintaining a high level of ambition. The fitness check has highlighted that the overall approach based on river basin governance has had very positive effects, and that several key principles (‘Polluter-Pays’, pollution prevention over treatment, fair contribution of all users to cost-recovery) have played a key role in achieving the WFD objectives and need to be upheld.
- More political ambition and coordination between EU and national levels. With already strong rules in place, the priority is to support Member States’ decision-making for better implementation: integrating the ‘one-out-all-out‘ principle with complementary reporting tools ; providing guidance on economic analyses ; promoting best-practice sharing on measures and to support capacity development of administrations, as well as stakeholder engagement and transparency as a condition to, amongst others, encourage political commitments.
- Flexibility and instruments to address contemporary challenges. The WFD was deemed flexible enough to face the future. To do so, River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) offer opportunities to integrate new scientific knowledge and challenges, including consideration of climate change. This would improve risk management and support informed choices for environmental and financial resilience. Better coordination of legislation affecting water is also essential.
- Adequate funding that enables the achievement of the WFD objectives. EU support is critical to tackle challenges and effectively reach objectives, through a smart combination of EU funding based on a context-based analysis of needs
Read our full position on the Water Framework Directive below