Almost eighteen years after the Water Framework Directive entered into force, this Agency report delivers an important health check. The picture is mixed, but there is good news. The declining trend in quality has been reversed, Member State efforts to address pollution are beginning to pay off, urban wastewater treatment is improving, and progress is being made with nutrient pollution from agriculture. Many obstacles in rivers have been removed and, little by little, all through Europe, we see rivers regaining their natural contours.
Cooperation between authorities and stakeholders is improving, both within countries and across national borders. And we now know much more about our water quality and quantity, through an elaborate and representative monitoring and reporting network, namely the network behind the EEA report that was presented today.
The Commission, Member States and stakeholders are working closely together, putting their shoulders to the enormous task of achieving good ecological status for all of Europe’s freshwater bodies – groundwater, lakes, rivers, coastal and transitional waters alike.
These promising efforts need to continue, and it’s time to step up the pace to reach our policy objectives. Because on the down side, the report shows 60% of the EU’s surface water bodies in a state that is less than good. Nutrients from agriculture and aquaculture, pesticides, microplastics and pharmaceutical residues are present in water bodies, often in quantities that are too high. There are traces of mercury almost everywhere in Europe’s waters. Tens of thousands of obstacles of all sizes are hindering the natural migration patterns of fish. From here to achieving 100% good status or equivalent by 2027, the last deadline in the Directive, is a steep climb.
But the tools we need are there, and the EU legislative framework on water is strong. It evolved from controlling sources of pollution and types of water, to an integrated framework for the improvement of water quality and quantity at the level of river basins through the Water Framework Directive.
And the Commission continues to support implementation of the legislation wherever it can, providing guidance, facilitating exchanges between Member States and stakeholders, providing knowledge and science, and making finance available through different EU instruments. We will look critically at the legislation, through the Fitness Check of water legislation launched recently.
The Commission will also monitor the correct implementation of legislation. We plan to adopt a report on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive later this year, and based on that, take action where warranted.
The more information we have, the easier it becomes to target our efforts, and deliver the results that citizens need. I welcome this report, and I look forward to using it as another tool in our efforts to improve Europe’s waters.
4 July 2018