Water | WWF
Confluence of Krupa and Zrmanja rivers, Croatia
	© Goran Šafarek

Fighting to protect water

Water is essential for people, nature and economies. And that water doesn't come from the tap, but from freshwater ecosystems, such as rivers, lakes and wetlands.

Despite this, and as WWF’s Living Planet Report shows, freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened on the planet. Although there have been some major improvements, pollution, habitat destruction and excessive use of water remain pressing issues in the EU. In fact, the latest data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that not even half of the EU's surface waters are currently healthy.

What is WWF doing?

WWF has worked on EU water policy since the establishment of the European Policy Office in 1989, including the negotiation of the EU's water law - the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The WFD is one of the most ambitious and innovative pieces of EU legislation ever to pass and critical to the protection and restoration of Europe’s freshwater ecosystems. Governments should be taking implementation of the WFD far more seriously than they are currently, and ramp up their ambition to radically improve the status of their water bodies - from their rivers and lakes, to groundwater and wetlands. 

A weaker WFD would have disastrous consequences for the health of our waters and biodiversity, and the crucial services these ecosystems provide across Europe. 

For this reason, WWF advocates for an effective implementation and better enforcement of the WFD in order to reduce:

  • diffuse pollution and abstracting too much groundwater from agriculture, and
  • changes to natural conditions of water ecosystems due to unsustainable development of hydropower, navigation, and flood management infrastructure.  

WWF works to ensure that the review of the WFD, which is currently underway, does not lead to the weakening of the EU’s legal framework for water protection. Rather than revising and potentially watering down this visionary and well-rounded piece of legislation, WWF, together with the other NGOs that make up the Living Rivers Europe coalition, believe that the focus should be on fully implementing the WFD - this would ensure that Europe's rivers, lakes and wetlands return to their natural state and are protected for generations to come, as well as enable the EU to fulfill its commitments on the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

WWF will be there every step of the way during this crucial review period to save the WFD and revive the EU and Member States’ ambition and political will to implement it on the ground. In October 2018, as Living Rivers Europe, we launched the #ProtectWater campaign to encourage citizens in Europe and beyond to participate in the European Commission’s public consultation on the WFD. Over the course of 2018 and 2019, we inspired more than 375,000 people to call on the European Commission to defend the WFD, making the public consultation on the this legislation one of the largest ever in the history of the EU.

It is now critical that Member States take these thousands of voices on board and, instead of focusing on weakening the WFD, raise their ambition on freshwater ecosystems protection and restoration through the current 2nd cycle of river basin management (2015-2021) - including by better integrating WFD objectives into sectoral policies (especially agriculture, energy, transport and flood management). They must also ensure that far better and more effective River Basin Management Plans are put in place in 2021, so that the WFD's good status objective is reached for EU waters by 2027 at the very latest. 

Policy timeline

Our Water team

Andreas Baumueller
Head, Natural Resources
+32 2 740 09 21

Sophie Bauer
Communications Officer, Freshwater
+32 471 05 25 11
@SoFreeBauer ‏

Carla Freund
EU Water Policy Assistant

Liesbeth Van den Bossche
EU Campaigner
(maternity leave until August 2019)
+32 477 81 10 20 

Alexandra Chevalier
Senior Communications & Media Officer
(EU campaigner maternity cover to August 2019)
+32 484 49 43 54

Member States keep delaying bringing EU waters back to good health

Infographic: All Member States are using exemptions to delay bringing their freshwater bodies to ... 
	© WWF European Policy Office

How does the EU Water Framework Directive work?

Infographic on how the WFD works 
	© Martina Mlinaric/WWF