Water Framework Directive fitness check finds slow implementation

water framework directive fitness check
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A ‘fitness check’ of the EU’s Water Framework Directive has concluded that the legislation is largely fit for purpose, with some room for improvement.

The fitness check acts as a comprehensive assessment of the Water Framework Directive and associated regulations, including the Environment Quality Standards Directive, the Groundwater Directive and the Floods Directive. An extensive consultation undertaken with both industry stakeholders and members of the public received around 370,000 responses; and its findings were examined along with the results of a supporting study to evaluate the directives’ fitness for purpose.

Evaluators conducted the fitness check with reference to five key criteria, drawn from the European Commission’s Better Regulation agenda:

  • Effectiveness;
  • Efficiency;
  • Coherence;
  • Relevance; and
  • EU added value.

They found that, where the Water Framework Directive had been fully implemented, it had had the desired effect of reducing chemical pollution in water and slowing the rate of water deterioration. However, the fitness check noted that implementation had been delayed by a number of factors including insufficient funding, excessive administrative burden and a failure to integrate the EU’s overarching environmental objectives within sector-specific policies; and that as a result, fewer than half of the EU’s more than 110,000 water bodies officially hold ‘good’ environmental status. The EU’s goal had been to ensure at least half of its bodies of water were ‘good’ by 2015.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “Our water legislation is strong and able to protect both water quality and quantity, also in view of the new challenges from climate change and emerging pollutants, such as microplastics and pharmaceuticals. But more than half of all European water bodies are not yet in good status, and the challenges for Member States are more than substantial. We now need to accelerate the implementation of what we have agreed. The momentum of the European Green Deal will allow us to make such a leap forward.”


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