02 March 2011

The Water Framework Directive

This is the major piece of EU legislation on water. It was enacted in 2000 (replacing seven earlier laws), often supercedes national legislation, puts a big emphasis on water quality, and tends to be annoyingly pragmatic.

The introduction to the WFD has these highlights:
The Commission presented a Proposal for a Water Framework Directive with the following key aims:
  • expanding the scope of water protection to all waters, surface waters and groundwater
  • achieving "good status" for all waters by a set deadline
  • water management based on river basins
  • "combined approach" of emission limit values and quality standards
  • getting the prices right
  • getting the citizen involved more closely
  • streamlining legislation

Getting the prices right The need to conserve adequate supplies of a resource for which demand is continuously increasing is also one of the drivers behind what is arguably one of the Directive's most important innovations - the introduction of pricing. Adequate water pricing acts as an incentive for the sustainable use of water resources and thus helps to achieve the environmental objectives under the Directive. Member States will be required to ensure that the price charged to water consumers - such as for the abstraction and distribution of fresh water and the collection and treatment of waste water - reflects the true costs. Whereas this principle has a long tradition in some countries, this is currently not the case in others. However, derogations will be possible, e.g. in less-favoured areas or to provide basic services at an affordable price.
Start here to explore the many facets of water policy in the EU (I've not read even a fraction of it. If you find something interesting, email me :). Those of you interested in water scarcity and droughts may want to read this "non-paper" [pdf] ("non-paper"? EU bureaucracies work in mysterious ways.)

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