Fitness Check of the Water Framework Directive

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A body of water surrounded by forest cliffs

A fitness check of the Water Framework Directive, its associated Directives, and the Floods Directive concludes that they are overall fit for purpose, with some room for enhanced effectiveness.

Despite the success of ongoing improvements to how the protection of water bodies progresses and flood risk management continues to evolve, this holistic evaluation of the WFD and more points to one key failing. The insufficient implementation of these measures by Member States - and by sectors with a heavy impact on water such as agriculture, energy and transport, - is the core factor in most need of special attention. The twin crises of climate change and environmental degradation make addressing these shortcomings, and securing the effectiveness of the WFD (and related legislation) is now more relevant than ever before.

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."

While mostly a resounding success, this evaluation has shown a few mixed results when it comes to the success of this legislation thus far. Firstly, it has been most certainly successful at setting up a framework for integrated water management and governance taking into account more than 110,000 water bodies in the EU, which has seen a slowing down in the deterioration of waters and a reduction in chemical pollution. Secondly however, the implementation of this legislation has been repeatedly delayed to quite a significant extent – leading to less than half of the EU’s water bodies achieving good status to date. The deadline for achieving this was originally set for 2015.

The EC has published a full press release on this report here, and the full report is available here. The home page for the fitness check can also be visited here.

Source: European Commission, Editorial: ICPDR
Photo credits: Pascal Rösler