Water | WWF
Lakes, Finland 
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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.

By 2021 EU Governments will have to ramp up their ambition and radically improve the status of our rivers, lakes and wetlands under the second cycle of river basin management.

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. Both the campaign and the public consultation will be running until 4 March 2019. It is the only opportunity for the general public to have its say during the evaluation of the law, and the campaign provides an easy tool for citizens to express their support to keep this law strong and effective.

It is critical that Member States now 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