Water does not stop at administrative or political boundaries, so the best way to protect and manage water is by close international co-operation between all the countries within the natural hydrological unit of the river basin – bringing together all interests upstream and downstream.
The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) establishes a legal framework to protect and enhance the status of aquatic ecosystems; prevent their deterioration and ensure long-term, sustainable use of water resources. The Directive provides for an innovative approach for water management based on river basins, the natural geographical and hydrological units, and sets specific deadlines for EU Member States. The WFD addresses inland surface waters (rivers and lakes), transitional waters, coastal waters, groundwater and, under specific conditions, water dependent terrestrial ecosystems and wetlands.
It establishes several integrative principles for water management, including public participation in planning and the integration of economic approaches, and also aims for the integration of water management into other policy areas. For better coordination, the WFD calls for the creation of international districts for river basins that cover the territory of more than one EU Member State. EU Member States should aim to achieve good status in all bodies of surface water and groundwater by 2015, respectively by 2027 at the latest.