The European Water Framework Directive

Since December 2000, waterbody management in Europe has been subject to new regulations. The Water Framework Directive of the EU (WFD) presents challenges for all institutions active in the water management sector. The focus of the directive is on integrated water protection, which is intended to achieve the following aims:

  • Water protection should no longer stop at administrative boundaries or national borders. The analysis will rather take place on the basis of river basins, i.e. based on natural boundaries.
  • Water protection should no longer be treated as a purely ecological or technical problem. In future, the associated economic and social issues will also be considered.
  • Groundwater, bodies of surface water, and water-related ecosystems, should have achieved "good status" by 2015.
  • Worsening of the status of groundwater, bodies of surface water and aquatic ecosystems should be avoided.
  • Water resources should be sustainably managed, thus making them available to future generations.
  • The public should be involved in the measures agreed.

Exemption clauses under Article 4 of the Water Framework Directive permit the member states to extend the deadline for the targets specified, in order to achieve the environmental objectives within a practicable timeframe, or to define less strict environmental objectives.
The desired "good status" of the bodies of water is assessed using a range of criteria. These include the chemical status, ecological characteristics, and hydromorphological quality.