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Blue2 study: Assistance for better policy-making on freshwater and marine environment

The European Commission has conducted a study on the socio-economic assessment of policies aiming to improve the quality of freshwater and the marine environment.

The BLUE2 study has two parts. The purpose of Part A was to identify the economic benefits of the EU water policy and the cost of its non-implementation. It was looking at freshwater and considered two aspects: the value of clean water as an input for the European economy, and more generally the value of a healthy freshwater environment. Part B was supporting a wider effort to build up a Europe-wide capacity for the integrated assessment modelling of policies that affect the quality of the freshwater and marine environment.


PART a: The economic benefits of the EU water policy and the cost of its non-implementation

The European Union recognises the precious role of clean and abundant water for economic prosperity and the well-being of citizens. An important set of legislation has been specifically developed in the past decades, culminating in the adoption in 2000 of the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

In the first 15 years of WFD implementation there have been challenges and successes. The 2017-2019 period represents a crucial time for the EU water policy: the assessment of the second generation of the river basin management plans will reveal a lot on the status of EU waters and on the level of implementation of the EU water acquis in Member States.

Part A of this study has been conceived in this context, with a specific focus on the economic aspects of the EU water acquis. Its starting point is the consideration that there is still much to learn on the economics of water, particularly in terms of understanding the full value of water and water services and how water resources contribute to economic development and citizens' well-being. The study is intended to provide more insight into the functioning of the WFD which could be used in the context of its review due in 2019. Therefore, the timeframe for completion of the tasks under Part A is 18 months (by mid-2018).

The results helps the Commission to obtain information on the economics of water, the full value of water services and the contribution of water resources for economic development in the EU. In turn, the Commission would like to help Member States to better understand the economic aspects of water, and to provide sound and clear economically based arguments to improve the implementation of the EU water policy, as well as give information about necessary investments into different types of measures in relation to their impacts. We have now a better understanding of the impact of each Member State’s responses to various local challenges for reaching the general objectives, while satisfying the different needs.



PART B: integrated policy assessment method & software linked to models of the freshwater & marine environment

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) is operating a number of computer models to simulate the physical, chemical and biological aspects of freshwater and of the marine environment on an EU-wide level.  These models require assumptions on the environmental loads being modelled, and they produce very large amounts of data that describe the simulated state of the environment that is the consequence of these assumptions.  In order to build policy assessment based on these models, there needs to be a structure that feeds policy-relevant information into the models and that interprets the model results in a way that is meaningful in a policy context.

The purpose of Part B was to build that structure.  This takes the shape of building (1) an inventory of existing environmental pressures, (2) a database of existing and potential measures to reduce these pressures, (3) a method to formulate policy scenarios accompanied by purpose-built software to translate these scenarios into input data that can be used by the models, and (4) a concept for the socio-economic assessment of the model results and a software to apply this concept in practice. The Commission intends to use the methods and tools built up in the course of the study in future policy development. In a first stage, five pressures have been addressed: eutrophication, selected contaminants, plastic litter, freshwater abstraction, and marine fishing pressure.

The objective of Part B was thus to develop a framework for the integrated socio-economic assessment of policies affecting the quality of the freshwater and marine environment, to be applied in connection with the water and marine modelling framework held by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre. This framework is to be used in connection with the Commission’s tasks to oversee the evaluation, implementation and possible review of the EU water and marine legislation. The instruments concerned include the Water Framework Directive (WFD), the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD), the Drinking Water Directive, the Nitrate Directive, and the Industrial Emission Directive (IED).



Study timeline


Technical part of the tender document

Deliverables Part A

Deliverables Part B

Final report

Related links

The modelling framework at the Joint Research Centre's Marine Competence Centre
EU policy on freshwater
EU policy on the marine environment