375,000+ citizens tell the European Commission “Hands off our water law!”
“One need only look elsewhere in the world to see that Europe is incredibly fortunate to have a general and cross-border legal framework in the shape of the Water Framework Directive to protect its rivers, lakes and wetlands, underlined Roberto Epple, President of the European Rivers Network, “It would be shameful to weaken it. Citizens have understood that. Member States should respect this and move up a gear to achieve the results outlined in this text, which can be considered a treasure.”
- According to the European Environment Agency’s 2018 report, European waters: Assessment of status and pressures 2018, only 40% of EU surface waters are currently healthy
- Implementation of EU water legislation has, on the whole, been poor and unambitious. The vast majority of Member States are continuing to use (and misuse) the various types of exemptions provided under the WFD. Indeed, the European Commission’s latest reports on implementation of the Water Framework Directive and Floods Directive showed that around half of Europe’s water bodies (surface and groundwater) are currently under exemption.
- The goal of #ProtectWater is simple: to defend the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and in doing so, protect Europe’s rivers, lakes, groundwater and wetlands, and the wildlife they house, for generations to come.
- The campaign was led by Living Rivers Europe (WWF’s European network, the European Anglers Alliance, European Environmental Bureau, European Rivers Network, and Wetlands International), who together represent a movement of over 40 million people across Europe.
- 130+ civil society groups went on to support the campaign
- The campaign allowed anyone to easily take part in the European Commission’s public consultation on the evaluation of EU water policy, which includes the WFD.
- By filling in the e-action’s form (available on www.livingrivers.eu as well as individual organisations’ websites), individuals could quickly and easily send the suggested response to the public consultation to the European Commission on their behalf.
- For more information, please visit www.livingrivers.eu
- The WFD is one of the EU’s most progressive pieces of environmental legislation. It requires the protection, enhancement and restoration of our rivers, wetlands, lakes and coastal waters.
- Under the WFD, EU governments have committed to ensure no deterioration and achieve good status for the vast majority of all water bodies by 2015, and at the very latest by 2027.
- The WFD is currently undergoing its standard review in the form of a ‘fitness check’. Every piece of EU legislation goes through this process. The fitness check will look at the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value of the WFD (and its 'daughter’ directives) and the Floods Directive. It includes the ongoing stakeholder consultation and public consultation.
Recommendations for improving the implementation of the Water Framework Directive:
- Member States should develop more effective and ambitious third-cycle river basin management plans (2021-2027) and associated programmes of measures to bring European waters to good status by 2027.
- Member States should significantly restrict their use of exemptions to exceptional cases only. To uphold the purpose and effect of the WFD, the European Commission should use enforcement measures to facilitate significant reduction in the use of exemptions.
- Member States should strictly apply the non-deterioration principle and precautionary approach. They must protect remaining free-flowing, unaltered and clean stretches of rivers for their biodiversity and ecological values and not leave them open to further hydropower development and modifications for inland navigation.
- Member States should increase the uptake of nature-based solutions and dam removal to ensure that freshwater biodiversity can spread back into degraded areas.
- Member States should apply in full the ‘polluter/user pays principle’ in line with the WFD, ensuring that water pricing reflects the true value of water and that all users, including agriculture, contribute to the full costs of water services in a more equitable way, the European Commission should take prompt and effective enforcement actions to ensure introduction of adequate water pricing.
- Member States should improve transparency and enable effective public participation in river basin management planning and application of exemptions (e.g. Article 4.7 WFD).
- Member States and the European Commission should ensure coherence between management and conservation of water ecosystems and relevant sectoral policies (most notably energy, agriculture, transport, flood management).
- Member States and the Commission should improve procedures and introduce effective tools for preventing, detecting and sanctioning breaches of established water and conservation laws.