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What is Water Framework Directive?

On 23 October 2000, the "Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy" or, in short, the EU Water Framework Directive (or even shorter the WFD) was adopted.

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the most substantial piece of EC water legislation to date and is designed to improve and integrate the way water bodies are managed throughout Europe.

The WFD provides a comprehensive view of aquatic ecosystems and water management with the overall objective to achieve a good status in all water bodies by 2015. It deals likewise with surface water and groundwater, whereas surface waters comprise rivers and lakes (inland waters) as well as coastal and transitional (e.g. estuaries) waters.

Being a "framework", the Directive focuses on establishing the right conditions to encourage efficient and effective water protection at local level, by providing a common approach and common objectives. However, the mechanisms and specific measures required to achieve "good status" are left to each EU member state and will be within the responsibility of competent authorities appointed on national level.


What is the good status?


Good status is a general term meaning the status achieved by a surface water body when both the ecological status and its chemical status are at least good or, for groundwater, and when both its quantitative status and chemical status are at least good.

What is a water body?


Water body is a discrete and significant element of surface water such as a river, lake or reservoir, or a distinct volume of groundwater within an aquifer.

What is a river basin?


River basin means the area of land from which all surface water run-off flows, through a sequence of streams, rivers and lakes into the sea at a single river mouth, estuary or delta.

The WFD is based on five key principles:

  1. It is holistic: the whole water system is considered in a coordinated way, where synergies are identified and duplicates avoided. The water system comprises groundwater, surface water and marine water
  2. It applies an integrated approach: links to other policies, such as agriculture and land use planning are identified
  3. It is transparent: public participation and consultation is a central issue.
  4. It follows economic principles: cost-effectiveness of measures and efficient water use through proper pricing policies are key issues.
  5. It is ecological: the overall target is to reach the good status of a water body. This includes the good ecological status which is assessed by comprehensive biological monitoring. (Source: Dimas, 2007)

The WFD foresees a clear roadmap for achieving the good status in all water bodies. Starting with a characterization of surface waters and groundwater systems and finally resulting in a comprehensive river basin management plan that comprises a detailed course of action for achieving the good status.

What are the core points in order to guarantee a sustainable river basin management plan?
  • First you have to know where exactly the problems are.
  • Secondly you have to follow economic principles. Each Euro should be spent in the most efficient and effective way possible.
  • And thirdly the public has to be involved.

For more information please find below the full text of the Directive:

Water Framework Directive

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last edited: Saturday, December 10, 2011