01 May 2005

A European framework for water quality

In October 2000 the European Commission published an all-encompassing Directive for water. Five years on from the first concept, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) was intended to replace a patchwork of other legislation, often overlapping and even contradictory, on various aspects of water management and quality. It has been hailed as one of the most far-reaching and comprehensive pieces of water legislation in the world. Issues covered include surface and groundwater quality (both chemical and ‘ecological’), water resource management, costs of water and minimum standards required.

The Directive introduced two concepts new to most European countries: firstly, the notion of water bodies within river basins as the basic building block of water management; and secondly, the dual approach to standards, i.e. discharge limits combined with environmental quality objectives and standards. The WFD covers inland surface water, transitional water, coastal water and groundwater, and will cause repeal of seven earlier Directives (and various amendments) over the next 15 years.

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