Water Resource Management, Strategies and Policies in the EU



The Water Framework Directive (WFD), which entered into force in December 2000, represents the primary water policy legislation in the European Union and the operational tool for enabling effective water governance within and across the 27 member states.


This website is meant to serve as an information platform and 'primer', providing an overview of the present state and the future developments of water management policies in the EU, focusing specifically on the current implementation of the WFD. Governance and decision-making on the EU-level, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Parliament, is complex. To learn more about the basic principles and legislative framework and understand how governance within the EU works and develops, please follow the links below to these most comprehensive websites:

The WFD is the result of several years of negotiation and consensus building – an era of EU environmental policy sometimes referred to as the "Third Wave", building upon and extending beyond the scope of existing directives that have been created during the “First Wave” in the early 1970s. The Introduction to the WFD commences with a brief overview of this development, followed by a more detailed description of the WFD objectives and a presentation of the time schedule.

To foster coordination and cooperation between member states sharing a common river basin, and to facilitate information exchange between them and the Commission, a Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) has been brought into life shortly after the adoption of the WFD. A series of international Pilot River Basins (PRB’s) and an Intercalibration-tool is used to harmonize understanding and to ensure that “good ecological status” of all surface waters – the core environmental objective of the WFD – means the same in every EU member state; they represent the core component of the CIS.


However, even with these strategies in place, many member states have not met past implementation deadlines for a variety of reasons, and there are clear discrepancies regarding the implementation performance of different countries, giving rise to a series of questions: What is the current status of implementation in the EU, by country and overall? Which member states are not, and for what reasons, in compliance with the time schedule, and who do we see leading the reporting and implementation timeline?


In order to tackle some of the most pressing issues linked to the WFD objectives, research projects have been launched and methodologies been developed in order to help member states assess costs and benefits of water resource protection (see AquaMoney), foster understanding for and implementation of adaptive water management (see NeWater), and further stakeholder participation (see HarmoniCOP).


As several older, water-related directives, such as the directives on surface water and dangerous substances discharges, will be repealed with the implementation of the WFD, new directives are created to extend and further specify certain aspects of the WFD, such as the EU Floods Directive, and the Marine Strategy. While this may indeed lead to a streamlined and more efficient water resource management regime in the EU, it might also pose the risk of undermining the core environmental objective of the WFD to achieve 'good ecological status' for all waters by 2015, as the WFD includes several exemptions that allow for less stringent measures. Critique raised by both the scientific community and NGOs referring to these kind of issues is briefly summarized at the end of the according web pages, and links to more exhaustive articles and sites are provided.


The implementation and time schedule of the WFD follows an adaptive management approach, continuously improving the management based on previous outcomes and constantly updating information, and so does this website. However, the development and updating of a website is a challenging and never-ending task, and feedbacks, comments, and new ideas from an engaged audience such as yourself is of tremendous help to realize its full information potential and ensure continuous actuality. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to actively participate in and contribute to the development of this site!


When you are ready to start exploring the WFD, click here.