Overview of EU environmental legislation
D. Water Quality
Water is one of the most comprehensively regulated area of EU environmental legislation. Early European water policy began in the 1970s with the First Environmental Action Programme in 1973 followed by a first wave of legislation, starting with the 1975 Surface Water Directive and culminating in the 1980 Drinking Water Directive. This first wave of water legislation included water quality standard legislation on fish waters (1978), shellfish waters (1979), bathing waters (1976) and groundwaters (1980). In the field of emission limit value legislation the Dangerous Substances Directive (1976) and its Daughter Directives on various individual substances were adopted.
A second wave of water legislation followed a review of existing legislation and an identification of necessary improvements and gaps to be filled. This phase of water legislation included the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (1991) and the Nitrates Directive (1991). Other elements identified were revisions of the Drinking Water and Bathing Water Directives to bring them up to date (proposals for revisions being adopted in 1994 and 1995 respectively), the development of a Groundwater Action Programme and a 1994 proposal for an Ecological Quality of Water Directive. Also, for large industrial installations, the IPPC Directive (finally adopted in 1996) covered water pollution as well.
During this time it had become, after extended discussion at Member States' and Community level, increasingly clear that an efficient protection of water needed emission limit value legislation as well as water quality standards legislation, i.e. a so-called "combined approach". This combined approach is also in accordance with principles established in the Treaty - the precautionary principle and the principle that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at the source, as well as the principle that environmental conditions in the various regions shall be taken into consideration.
D.1 The Proposed Water Framework Directive
In 1995 the European institutions agreed that a fundamental review and restructuring process was needed for Community water policy.
The Commission which had already been considering the need for a more global approach to water policy, accepted requests from the European Parliament's environment committee and from the Council of environment ministers . Following a wide-ranging consultation of all interested parties, such as local and regional authorities, water users, enforcement agencies, water providers, industry, agriculture and, not least, consumers and environmentalists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) the Commission adopted, in February 1997, its Proposal for a Water Framework Directive. Its purpose is to establish a framework in order to achieve the following four main objectives of a sustainable water policy
- sufficient provision of drinking water
- sufficient provision of water for other economic requirements
- protection of the environmental
- alleviation of the adverse impact of floods and droughts.
The environmental objective of the Directive is to achieve "good status" for all groundwaters and surface waters by 2010 at the latest. To this aim, it establishes river basin management based on an assessment of the characteristics of the river basin; monitoring of the status of its surface and groundwaters; definition of quality objectives; establishment of programmes of measures to achieve the defined objective. However, the administrative structure to achieve this river basin management is left to the discretion of Member States.
The programme of measures will have to follow the abovementioned combined approach, using the setting of emission limit values and that water quality standards. In this context the full implementation of existing EU emission limit value legislation has to be provided, i.e. Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, IPPC Directive, Nitrates Directive, Plant Protection Products Directive, Dangerous Substances Directives. In addition, the water quality standards established under the Water Framework Directive and other relevant EU water legislation (e.g. Bathing Water Directive) have to be complied with.
Further, Member States will have to ensure that services to water users are paid at full cost recovery prices (basically prices for water supply and waste water collection and treatment). The programme of measures will have to be based on all relevant water-related legislation, be it Community, national or regional legislation and we have to be legally binding.
- Countries should orient new legislation on the requirements in the proposed Water Framework Directive, as it is meant to be the future regulatory framework for EU water policy, and may well be in force by the date of accession. Further, it will absorb and integrate older legislation such as the Surface Water Directive, and Fish and Shellfish Water Directives and the Groundwater Directive, thus allowing those to be repealed.
- Identify river basins and establish a competent authority etc. to monitor water quality and quantity.
- Identify surface waters and groundwaters intended and/or used for drinking water abstraction.
- Assess the impact of human activities on surface waters and groundwaters with each river basin, taking into consideration pollution from point sources, pollution from diffuse sources, water abstraction and other human activities with an impact on water status.
- Establish river basin management plans based on a assessment of water needs, impacts of human activities on the water bodies and setting objectives for water quality and quantity.
- Undertake an economic analysis for each river basin, to provide, inter alia, the basic information for the necessary full cost recovery for all costs for services provided for water uses. Derogations to the principle that water should be paid for at the full cost recovery prices may be granted at national level under specific conditions defined in the Directive and following a certain procedure.
- Establish and implement a legally binding programme of measures to achieve the objectives; such programmes comprise basis measures (implementation of a score of existing Community legislation, cost covering charges for water use etc.) as well as supplementary measures to achieve the necessary good status of waters.
- Involve interested parties such as other relevant government departments, local communities, water utilities, industry and commerce, agriculture, consumers and environmental groups in the discussion of the river basin management plans.
D.2 Urban Waste Water Directive
Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban waste water treatment aims to protect surface inland waters and coastal waters by regulating collection and treatment of urban waste water and discharge of certain biodegradable industrial waste water (basically from the agro-food industry).
As a rule it requires for all agglomerations above 2,000 population equivalents sewerage systems and secondary, i.e. biological waste water treatment. More advanced treatment is required for so-called sensitive areas (i.e. water bodies subject to eutrophication or in danger to become so). For certain marine waters, primary, i.e. mechanical treatment might be sufficient, provided it can be proved that the water quality is not adversely affected. The deadlines for reaching the objectives depend on the size of the agglomeration and the character of the receiving water - from 1998 to 2005. By 1998, any discharge of sewage sludge to water bodies is prohibited.
- Assess whether you identify sensitive areas or apply / have to apply the more stringent system to your whole territory. If you identify individual sensitive areas, economic considerations must not influence this identification process.
- Identify agglomerations which need a sewerage system and/or a treatment plant or its improvement.
- Establish a phased implementation programme for sewerage and treatment systems.
- Develop detailed capital investment strategies in order to cope with the expenditures needed to construct, improve or replace sewerage and/or treatment systems.
- Assess costs for users, develop strategies for cost recovery (cf. also Water Framework Directive on full cost recovery).
- Develop and implement strategies for the reuse and/or disposal of sewage sludge from waste water treatment, including where necessary the phasing-out of discharge or dumping to waters.
- Assess the need for training the necessary staff for maintenance of sewerage systems and treatment plants. Countries should consider the need for training in management and financial planning as well.
D.3 Nitrates from Agricultural Sources Directive
Directive 91/676/EEC concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources complements the Urban Waste Water Directive by reducing and preventing the nitrates pollution of water from agricultural sources, i.e. chemical fertiliser and livestock manure, both to safeguard drinking water supplies and to protect fresh water and marine waters from eutrophication.
The Directive requires each Member State to draw up at least one code of good agricultural practice which must be promoted throughout the territory. The measures in it are not mandatory.
On the basis of the results from monitoring networks specified in the Directive, zones vulnerable to nitrate pollution from agricultural sources have to be identified. In these zones action programmes have to be implemented consisting of mandatory measures, in addition the codes become mandatory. Member States can decide to apply the measures in the action programmes across their whole territory, in that case they do not have do identify vulnerable zones.
- Member States should assess whether they should identify vulnerable zones (taking the scientific/technical efforts into consideration) or apply the more stringent system to the whole of their territory and designate accordingly.
- Establish measuring and monitoring systems for surface waters and groundwater. Designate the necessary authorities for implementation.
- Establish codes of good agricultural practice for training of farmers.
- Establish and implement action programmes for the vulnerable zones (or the whole territory; see 1 above).
- Review designations and effectiveness of action programmes periodically.
D.4 Dangerous Substances Discharges
Directive 76/464/EEC on pollution caused by certain dangerous substances discharged into waters requires Member States to control all emissions of dangerous substances by a permit or authorisation system. The Directive and its seven daughter Directives is oriented on individual dangerous substance or groups of substances. Daughter Directives have so far covered 18 substances at a Community level.
The Directive obliges Member States to set maximum emission limit values established in these Directives. However, as an alternative they allow Member States to control pollution by complying with water quality standards established in the same Directive and thus derived emission limit values.
For those industrial installations covered by the IPPC Directive, the emission limit values under the Daughter Directives are in any way mandatory. Moreover, the proposed Water Framework Directive will establish the water quality standards under those Directives as mandatory as well, thus implementing the combined approach (see Water Framework Directive). For sources not covered by the IPPC Directive, a revision of relevant legislation is presently ongoing.
- Establish permit or authorisation procedures for industrial waste water discharges, their requirements being coherent with the IPPC Directive and the proposed Water Framework Directive.
- For all dangerous substances listed in list II pollution reduction programmes have to be established and implemented.
- Evaluate and upgrade in co-operation between authorities and industry the expertise in pollution control technology, environmental toxicology, effluent monitoring and inspection procedures through appropriate training courses.
- Collect data on emission limit values and water quality standards in other EU Member States for those substances and parameters where they not been set at a Community level.
D.5 Drinking Water Directive
Directive 80/778/EEC relating to the quality of water for human consumption is designed to safeguard human health by establishing strict standards for the quality of drinking water. Member States have to monitor drinking water quality and take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the mandatory standards. In its annexes, the Directive provides the parameters and parametric values, patterns and frequencies of analyses, and reference methods of analysis.
A revision of the Directive proposed by the Commission is presently being negotiated in Council and the European Parliament. The objective of the revision is to bring legislation up to the state of science and experience, to review the parametric values and to improve the management structure under the Directive.
- Establish a system of monitoring, sampling and testing drinking water including tap water, bottled water and water used in food production. However, it is left to Member States whether they organise this on a national, regional or local level.
- Identify drinking water supply systems that do not comply with the mandatory standards. Establish a phased programme for compliance by measures such as addressing the source of pollution, changing the source of supply or treating the water before supplying it to distribution systems.
- Develop detailed capital investment strategies in order to cope with the expenditures needed to construct, improve or replace the necessary distribution and/or treatment systems.
- The problems of nitrates and pesticides from agricultural sources, as well as lead from lead distribution systems, may deserve special attention, as it has been the greatest
- Assess costs for users, develop strategies for cost recovery (cf. also Water Framework Directive on full cost recovery).
- Assess the need for training the necessary staff for maintenance of drinking water distribution and treatment systems. Countries should consider the need for training in management and financial planning as well.
D.6 Surface Water for Drinking Water Abstraction Directive,
Measurement and Sampling of Surface Waters Directive
and Information Exchange Decision
These directives belong to the first wave of European Water legislation adopted during the 1970s. All three directives will in future be integrated into the Water Framework Directive, which will retain all the obligations established under the three existing Directives, but put them into a more coherent framework, as the scope of water protection will be expanded to include all waters, and not only those serving a specific human use.
Directive 75/440/EEC concerning the quality required of surface water intended for the abstraction of drinking water lays down requirements to ensure that it meets certain minimum standards specified in the Directive. Wherever a water body used or intended for use in drinking water abstraction does not meet the requirements, Member States have to establish and implement plans of action.
Directive 79/869/EEC on surface water measurement methods establishes the sampling and measurement procedures for the waters covers by Directive 75/440/EC.
Decision 77/795/EEC on Information Exchange establishes a common procedure of exchange of information on the quality of surface fresh waters in the EU. The Decision establishes a network of monitoring points with a monitoring regime covering several parameters. The information provided by Member States is published by the Commission in a synthesis report.
1. As these directives are expected to be integrated into the Water Framework Directive in the future, measures to transpose the existing directives should be seen in the light of progress in respect to the adoption of the Framework Directive. Awaiting that, priority should be given to should be given to the implementation of the substantive requirements such as defining waters intended for drinking water abstraction, and adequately monitoring them.
D. 7 Fish Water Directive and Shell Water Directive
Like the directives mentioned under D.6 these directives will also in future be integrated into the Water Framework Directive, which will retain all the obligations established under the two existing Directives, but put them into a more coherent framework covering all waters.
Directive 78/659/EEC on fish water quality seeks to protect those fresh water bodies identified by Member States as fish waters. For those it sets water quality standards for salmonid waters and cyprinid waters. Where the water quality in such designated waters is not in compliance with the standards, programmes to reduce pollution have to be set up. Requirements on sampling and monitoring are laid down.
Directive 79/923/EEC on shellfish water quality seeks to protect those coastal and brackish water bodies identified by Member States as shellfish waters. For those it sets water quality standards. Where the water quality in such designated waters is not in compliance with the standards, programmes to reduce pollution have to be set up. Requirements on sampling and monitoring are laid down.
1. As this legislation is expected to be integrated into the Water Framework Directive in the future, measures to transpose the existing directives should be seen in the light of progress in respect to the adoption of the Framework Directive. Awaiting that, priority should be given to the implementation of the substantive requirements of the existing directives. The main obligation will under the forthcoming Water Framework Directive be the establishment of an adequate sampling and monitoring system. This overall approach should also contribute to avoiding overlapping efforts in the field of measuring and monitoring.
D. 8 Groundwater Directive
Directive 80/68/EEC on the protection of groundwater pollution caused by certain dangerous substances will also in the future be integrated in the forthcoming Water Framework Directive. The Directive seeks to control the direct and indirect discharge of certain substances into the groundwater. This is to achieved primarily by an authorisation system for discharges as well as disposal or tipping. For certain substances and groups of substances any discharge to groundwater is prohibited ("List I substances"), whilst others ("List II substances") must be subject to a elaborate authorisation procedure. Member States are to monitor compliance with the authorisation and the effects of discharges.
1. As this directive, including a ban on discharges of dangerous substances into the groundwater, is expected to be integrated into the Water Framework Directive in the future, measures to transpose the existing directive should be seen in the light of progress in respect to the adoption of the Framework Directive. Awaiting that, priority should be given to should be given to the implementation of the substantive requirements. The main obligation will under the forthcoming Water Framework Directive be the establishment of an adequate sampling and monitoring system. This overall approach should also contribute to avoiding overlapping efforts in the field of measuring and monitoring.
D. 9 Bathing Water Directive
Directive 76/160/EEC on the quality of bathing waters seeks to ensure the quality of bathing water throughout the EU, both for fresh water and coastal waters bathing areas. The Directive lays down 19 physical, chemical and microbiological parameters and requires Member States to monitor their bathing areas according to set rules for sampling frequencies and parameters. Member States have to take all appropriate measures in order to comply with the mandatory quality standards laid down in the Directive.
The Commission publishes an annual report on the quality of EU bathing water.
As for updating of this 1976 Directive, a proposal for a review has been adopted by the Commission.
During its work on the Water Framework Directive, the Commission has come to the conclusion that the Bathing Water Directive makes a distinct Community contribution to the integration of environmental policy and tourism policy and that it benefits from having a clear, separate identity. However, the Bathing Water Directive will be closely co-ordinated with the Water Framework Directive, as bathing waters and their associated obligations will have to be incorporated into the river basin management plans.
- Identify bathing waters meeting the definitions of the Directive.
- Designate an appropriate authority at national, regional or local level for sampling and monitoring.
- Evaluate the impact on the country's obligations under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive on the compliance with bathing water quality standards, and decide whether further measures are needed for compliance with the quality standards.