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Evaluation of EU water legislation concludes that it is fit for purpose but slow in implementation

A European Commission fitness check of the Water Framework Directive, the Floods Directive and the associated Directives concluded that they are fit for purpose with room for enhanced effectiveness. This means that no legislative changes are recommended, but focus will be on implementation. Despite improvements in the protection of water bodies, the evaluation points to insufficient level of implementation by Member States and by sectors with a heavy impact on water.

The results of the evaluation of the Water Framework Directive are mixed. On the one hand, it has been successful in setting up a governance framework for water management for water bodies in the EU, slowing down the deterioration of water status and reducing chemical pollution. On the other hand, implementation of the Directive has been significantly delayed. As a result, less than half of the EU’s water bodies are in good status, even though the deadline for achieving this was 2015.

The fact that the Directive’s objectives have not been fully reached is largely due to insufficient funding, slow implementation and insufficient integration of environmental objectives in sectoral policies, rather than deficiencies in the legislation. The insufficient level of implementation by Member States and by those sectors of the economy with an impact on water has come to the forefront across the evaluation and all Directives.

The fitness check also concluded that the Water Framework Directive is sufficiently flexible to accommodate emerging challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and pollutants of emerging concern (e.g. micro-plastics and pharmaceuticals). Chemicals is a key area where there is room to improve and to achieve better results.

The full fitness check can be found here and the Executive Summary here.