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Water Framework Directive

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Title: Water Framework Directive  
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Subject: Environmental monitoring, GEP, River Basin Management Plans, Water Quality, Marine chemist
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Water Framework Directive

European Union directive:
Directive 2000/60/EC
Water Framework Directive
Made by European Parliament & Council
Made under Article 175(1)
Journal reference OJL 327, 22 December 2000, pp. 1–73
Made 23 October 2000
Came into force 22 December 2000
Implementation date 22 December 2003
Preparative texts
Other legislation
Amended by Decision No 2455/2001/EC, Directive 2008/32/EC
Status: Current legislation

The Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy) is a European Union directive which commits European Union member states to achieve good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies (including marine waters up to one nautical mile from shore) by 2015. It is a framework in the sense that it prescribes steps to reach the common goal rather than adopting the more traditional limit value approach.

Objectives of the Directive

The Directive aims for 'good status' for all ground and surface waters (rivers, lakes, transitional waters, and coastal waters) in the EU.

The ecological and chemical status of surface waters are assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Biological quality (fish, benthic invertebrates, aquatic flora)
  • Hydromorphological quality such as river bank structure, river continuity or substrate of the river bed
  • Physical-chemical quality such as temperature, oxygenation and nutrient conditions
  • Chemical quality that refers to environmental quality standards for river basin specific pollutants. These standards specify maximum concentrations for specific water pollutants. If even one such concentration is exceeded, the water body will not be classed as having a “good ecological status”.[1]

The Water Framework Directive stipulates that groundwater must achieve “good quantitative status” and “good chemical status” (i.e. not polluted) by 2015. Groundwater bodies are classified as either "good" or "poor".[2]

Article 14 of the directive requires member states "to encourage the active involvement of interested parties" in the implementation of the directive. This is generally acknowledged to be an assimilation of the Aarhus Convention.[3]

Spatial management of river basins

One important aspect of the Water Framework Directive is the introduction of River Basin Districts. These areas have been designated, not according to administrative or political boundaries, but rather according to the river basin (the spatial catchment area of the river) as a natural geographical and hydrological unit. As rivers often cross national borders, representatives from several Member States have to cooperate and work together for the management of the basin (so-called transboundary basins). They are managed according to River Basin Management Plans, which should provide a clear indication of the way the objectives set for the river basin are to be reached within the required timescale. They should be updated every six years.[4]


The Ebro River Transfer, a project from the Spanish National Hydrological Plan of 2001 was highly criticised as being contrary to the principles of the EU Water Framework Directive, and later put on hold. The project planned to transfer huge amounts of water from the Ebro River to the south-east of Spain with the construction of 120 dams.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "WATER FRAMEWORK DIRECTIVE: THE WAY TOWARDS HEALTHY WATERS". Umweltbundesamt. Retrieved 2012-05-26. 
  2. ^ "WATER FRAMEWORK DIRECTIVE: THE WAY TOWARDS HEALTHY WATERS". Umweltbundesamt. Retrieved 2012-05-26. 
  3. ^ "The Water Framework Directive: A New Directive for a Changing Social, Political and Economic European Framework — European Planning Studies". Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  4. ^ "Introduction to the new EU Water Framework Directive". European Commission. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  5. ^ "Economic assessment of the Ebro Water Transfer".  

External links

  • EU legislation summary
  • Text of the directive, without tables and graphics, HTML format
  • Text of the directive, with tables and graphics, PDF format
  • EU Commission site with general and background information
  • Implementing the Water Framework Directive in CroatiaEU Twinning Project
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