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The measures to bring our water environment back to health have a cost. However, the benefits healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands provide to us far outweigh these costs.

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The economic sectors responsible for the pressures on our waters have to implement measures to address those problems. There is no evidence that the WFD imposed disproportionate obligations. Moreover, the WFD has several legal mechanisms to ensure measures are not taken if they are deemed too costly or place too much of a burden on industry, e. However, despite some positive examples, the public participation requirements of the WFD have so far not been fully implemented. Due to obligations in the EU laws, we know much more about the status of our water environment, the problems that need to be solved, as well as where successes were possible in restoring floodplains to reduce flood damage or removing dams to allow fish to migrate again.

The WFD also obliges governments to consult and involve citizens in making decisions about the future of their local rivers, lakes and coasts. However, governments have failed to adequately recognise the value of water and healthy ecosystems, which are still perceived primarily as sources of water and power. The obligations set in the legislation remain relevant in the face of ever-increasing pressures on our water environment, growing demand for water, as well as the increasing frequency and intensity of floods and droughts.

The EU water legislation is flexible enough to deal with ever-changing circumstances, including climate change or new technological and economic developments. Do the Water Framework Directive's provisions on assessing ecological status sufficiently allow for the effects of climate change to be distinguished from other effects? Are the provisions of the Water Framework Directive and the Groundwater Directive sufficient to protect groundwater bodies from technological developments such as fracking?

This would include fracking that has two potential implications for groundwater: sourcing of water which is needed to make the injection fluid and the flowback of water disposal of wastewater , once the water has been used. Direct discharges of pollutants to groundwater such as injection of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing are prohibited under the WFD. Together with other pieces of EU legislation e. Major water pressures are now tackled in one common regulatory framework and pieces of EU water legislation are coherent and deadlines and specific tasks such as public participation need to be coordinated.

Please provide any comments:. Many pieces of EU environmental legislation and EU environmental policies support and are supported by the WFD and its daughter directives. However, a lack of integration and policy coherence with other sectoral policies most notably agriculture, transport, energy undermines the objectives of the EU water acquis.

Delivering change: Towards fit-for-purpose governance of adaptation to flooding and drought

It must be emphasised that the EU legal framework for sustainable water management is not the cause of this incoherence — analyses show that a lack of integration of water concerns into other policy areas constitutes the root cause of poor implementation of the EU water law, and it expresses itself at different levels. For example, lack of coordination and policy coherence is reflected in countries not seizing investment opportunities for implementation of the WFD;s measures provided by EU financial mechanisms especially Cohesion Policy funds and Common Agricultural Policy funding , and are instead choosing to finance measures that undermine WFD implementation e.

There is also ineffective coordination between different governmental authorities and departments, and therefore no coordinated implementation between water policies and other sectoral policies, such as agriculture, energy, transport. This is also being reflected in investment planning processes not being aligned e. RDPs are prepared in isolation from RBMPs or significant differences on what different departments consider as sustainable water management e.

The WFD is coherent with environmental legislation and supports the achievement of policy objectives such as halting biodiversity loss. Water Framework Directive: High added value.

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Groundwater Directive: High added value. Environmental Quality Standards Directive: High added value. Floods Directive: High added value. The WFD has been the main driver in developing a more stringent and ambitious national legislation for the protection of freshwater ecosystems. It also brought about increased cooperation and cross-border protection of rivers shared between several EU countries, such as the Danube and the Rhine. The WFD also helped to establish a level playing field for companies operating within the EU single market.

Final questions. If you wish to expand on any of your answers or if you wish to add comments or information on anything else relevant to the Fitness Check, please do so in the box below. Healthy freshwater ecosystems are important to me. I am somewhat familiar with WFD and agree with environmental groups that it is fit for purpose and its ambitious objectives are justified:. I appeal to the Commission and Member States to not change the WFD, but instead better implement and enforce it, and integrate water protection objectives into other sectoral policies esp.

This website uses cookies to help improve your online experience. Read more. Our website uses Google Analytics to help us understand website traffic and webpage usage. Our response to best support freshwater ecosystems and benefits they deliver for nature, society and economy The European Commission is evaluating whether the EU water policy is fit for purpose and is seeking as many views as possible from the public on how important freshwater ecosystems are, whether the EU legislation caused a shift towards sustainable water management, and has led to improvements in the health of water bodies.

Our rationale There is a clear lack of political will from governments to effectively deal with the main pressures on their freshwater ecosystems, and this is by far the main challenge to sustainable water management in Europe.


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Stricter regulation of environmental pollution: 3 Moderate improvement Stricter regulation to minimise the use of hazardous chemicals in industry, etc. Additional comments : I care about the current and future state of our freshwater ecosystems and I agree with the environmental groups that the EU Water Framework Directive WFD is fit for purpose, and it has delivered on protection and restoration of our waters, as well as yielded benefits for economy and society. Large-scale restoration measures are also missing. Inadequate monitoring and methods for assessing and classifying the status of water bodies.

There are uncertainties in relation to status and reasons for failure; often a very obvious pressure or deterioration in status is not detected. RBMPs and PoMs are adopted without sufficient funding allocated in national budgets to implement control measures and plans on acquiring EU funding are not outlined, nor are ways to make water users provide adequate contributions to cost recovery for water use or cleaning up the pollution from some of the main drivers like agriculture.

There is a failure to recognise environmental and socio-economic benefits generated by the improvement in water status.

Delivering Change

In some countries national laws prevent review and amendment of existing permits, eg for hydropower or water abstraction water rights , hence compliance with WFD objectives cannot be ensured. Excessive use and misuse of various types of exemptions. Often justifications for these exemptions are inadequate and it is not clear if measures are taken to progress towards the objectives; sometimes blanket exemptions for certain sectors eg flood management are applied.

Lack of transparency and public participation not effectively ensured. Climate change will bring about unprecedented economic, social and environmental effects, which require both the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to its adverse effects.


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Water is the main element through which the impacts of climate change will be felt. Climate change results in increased uncertainties, complexities, stress and potential for conflicts within water management, both among and within states. New forms of governance are needed if the world is to respond to the need to adapt to changes in freshwater supply and to manage water security risks.

This paper suggests that adaptive governance should to be main-streamed into all water regulation to ensure the availability of and access to safe water resources and to prevent water-related conflicts. The paper discusses the concept of water security in the context of climate change, the threats that climate change poses to water security, and the concept and implications of adaptive governance as a possible solution. Delivering change: Towards fit-for-purpose governance of adaptation to flooding and drought more.

Fit-for-purpose governance: A framework to make adaptive governance operational more.

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