|Main authors:||Froukje Maria Platjouw, Harriet Moore, Susanne Wuijts, Sandra Boekhold, Susanne Klages, Isobel Wright, Morten Graversgaard and Gerard Velthof|
|FAIRWAYiS Editor:||Jane Brandt|
|Source document:||»Platjouw F. M. et al. (2021) Coherence in EU law and policy for the protection of drinking water resources. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 6.1R 200 pp|
Here we discuss the legal requirements imposed by the Water Framework Directive on states and/or the farming industry with a focus on ecological, monitoring and reporting, public participation (including farmer organisatons) and coordination requirements. The ecological requirements are subjected to a (vertical) coherence assessment of their contribution to FAIRWAY's objectives of protecting drinking water resources against pollution by nitrates and pesticides from agricultural practices. Finally we subject the WFD to a (horizontal) coherence assessment with the Groundwater, Drinking Water, Nitrates and Pesticides Directives to see how well each supports or constrains and counteracts the others.
Details of the analyses are contained in the Appendices of the full report:
|1. Overview of the Water Framework Directive|
|2. Contribution of the Water Framework Directive's requirements to achieving FAIRWAY's objectives|
|3. Coherence of the Water Framework Directive with other directives|
The 2000 Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the most comprehensive instrument of EU water policy. The WFD and its daughter Directives, including the 2006 Groundwater Directive and the 2008 Environmental Quality Standards Directive, are integrating or progressively replacing other earlier Directives which focused on specific pollutants or objectives. The adoption of the WFD aimed to include all significant surface and groundwater bodies and to set objectives for the achievement of good status for those water bodies. The actions to be taken under the Directive are aimed at managing all the pressures which may prevent the achievement of those objectives including diffuse and point sources or hydro morphological pressures, water scarcity and vulnerability.
The main objective of the WFD is to protect and enhance freshwater resources with the aim of achieving good ecological status of EU waters by 2015 or, failing that, by 2021 (or 2027 at the latest). Simultaneously, all the waters are regulated by the non-deterioration clause, which requires EU member states to implement all the necessary measures to prevent the further deterioration of the water bodies. The assessment of ecological status is primarily based on three or four Biological Quality Elements (BQEs) depending on the water body in question.
The substantive goal of good ecological status is implemented via several procedural requirements.
- The Directive requires the member states to identify all the river basins in their area, and to ensure appropriate administrative arrangements, including the identification of competent authorities responsible for implementing the WFD. It thus requires EU member states to establish river basin districts that are based on geographical and hydrological criteria instead of administrative or political boundaries.
- Member states must conduct an analysis of the characteristics of each water body, a review of the impact of human activity on the status of waters, and an economic analysis of water use in each river basin.
- Member states must establish a register of all areas lying within each river basin district which have been designated as requiring special protection under specific EU legislation for the protection of their surface water and groundwater or for the conservation of habitats and species directly depending on water.
- Member states shall identify, within each river basin, all bodies of water used for the abstraction of water intended for human consumption providing more than 10 m3 a day as an average or serving more than 50 persons, and those bodies of water intended for such future use.
- Member states must establish programmes for the monitoring of the water status. These monitoring programmes are directly linked to a programme of measures which must also be established for each river basin. Each programme of measures shall include the basic measures and, where necessary, supplementary measures to achieve the ecological objectives of the directive.
The programme of measures could incorporate requirements deriving from earlier EU directives, such as the Nitrates Directive, as well as some new obligations including control on diffuse sources of pollution and abstraction, protection of drinking water, promotion of efficient and sustainable water use and a water pricing policy. Supplementary measures can be applied in addition to the basic measures, as deemed necessary, to achieve the good status objectives. This might include training and advice, investments and agri-environment-climate operations in Rural Development Programmes.
Where monitoring or other data indicate that the objectives set under WFD art. 4 for the body of water are unlikely to be achieved, the member state shall ensure that the causes of the possible failure are investigated, relevant permits and authorizations are examined and reviewed as appropriate, the monitoring programmes are reviewed and adjusted as appropriate, and additional measures as may be necessary to achieve those objectives are established.
Finally, member states shall ensure that a river basin management plan is produced for each river basin district lying entirely within their territory and for transboundary rivers. The river basin management plan shall include the information detailed in WFD annex VII. In practice, a river basin management plan is a summary of the procedural obligations set by the directive.
Table 2.1 Requirements and objectives of the WFD
|Label||Requirements and objectives of the WFD|
|Protect surface water||To protect surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater, to prevent their further deterioration and enhance their status, and to promote sustainable water use (Art.1)|
|Prevent deterioration||To implement the necessary measures to prevent deterioration of the status of all bodies of surface water (art.4.1 (a)(i)); and protect, enhance and restore all bodies of surface water to achieve good water status (art.4.1 (a)(ii))|
|Protect/enhance artificial bodies||To protect and enhance all artificial and heavily modified bodies of water, with the aim of achieving good ecological potential and good surface water chemical status (art. 4.1(a)(iii)).|
|Reduce pollution||To implement the necessary measures with the aim of progressively reducing pollution from priority substances and ceasing or phasing out emissions, discharges and losses of priority hazardous substances (art. 4.1(a)(iv)).|
|Maintain good status||To establish a framework for achieving or maintaining good status of inland surface waters, coastal waters, transitional waters and groundwater (art. 1)|
|Review river basins||To identify river basins in their area (art. 3.1); to ensure an analysis of each river basin’s characteristics, to review the impact of human activity on the status of surface waters, and to conduct an economic analysis of water use according to the technical specifications set out in Annexes II and III (art. 5.1).|
|Produce RBM plans||To ensure that a river basin management plan is produced for each river basin district lying entirely within their territory (art. 13.1).|
|Establish basin programmes and measures||To ensure the establishment for each river basin district, of a programme of measures, in order to achieve the objectives established under article 4 (art. 11.1).|
|Identify water bodies||To identify all bodies of water used for significant abstraction for human consumption (art. 7)|
Ten respondents gave a score on a 7-point Likert-scale based on their perception about the interaction between requirements of the WFD and the FAIRWAY objective, indicating whether experts believe that the WFD contributes positively or negatively to achieving those objectives. Figure 2.1 demonstrates that respondents perceive that the requirements to protect surface waters (Art. 1 WFD), and to prevent deterioration of surface waters (Art. 1 WFD and Art. 4.1(a)(i)) are indivisible (+3) to the FAIRWAY objective. Further, respondent scores contained little variability. Between 60% and 70% of the respondents gave a score of +3, suggesting they believe that these provisions are highly contributive to the protection of drinking water resources.
Responses related to requirements for protecting and enhancing modified water bodies (Art. 4.1(a)(iii)), reducing pollution (Art. 4.1(a)(iv)), and establishing a framework to achieve or maintain good status of water (Art. 1), suggest that respondents believe that these articles are only moderately contributive to the FAIRWAY objective. Responses were also more varied. For example, only 50% of respondents gave a score of +3 to the requirement related to modified water bodies. Finally, 33 Articles 5.1, 13.1, and 11.1 WFD, concerning reviewing basin management plans and developing programmes and measures, are perceived to be the least contributive to the protection of drinking water resources. While these scores were still positive, indicating some contributive value, there was much greater variability in responses. For example, only 20% of respondents considered that the requirement to develop a programme of measures (Art. 11.1) is highly important (indivisible +3), while 80% considered that the requirement is enabling (+1) or reinforcing (+2).
Overall, the average value of all responses to all survey items was positive (M = 2.1). This suggests that respondents believe the general requirements of the WFD are considered to contribute positively to the protection of drinking water resources against pesticides and nitrates from agricultural practices.
Responses to open-ended survey items give some explanation about the overall positive scores, and the variability between scores for different requirements. Respondents suggested that requirements related to protecting and enhancing water quality impose positive duties upon states to protect surface and groundwaters, and to promote their sustainable use. In contrast, several responses related to the more procedural requirements suggest that management plans, programs, and measures, are not necessarily sufficient to achieve the protection of drinking water resources. Responses also suggest that the effectiveness of WFD requirements to achieve outcomes is further complicated by partly overlapping requirements and objectives of other directives.
For example, one respondent suggested it is necessary to reduce N loads in order to achieve the FAIRWAY objective. Thus, the contribution of the WFD should also be considered in combination with other directives, such as the Nitrates Directive. Nitrate is a core parameter in the groundwater monitoring. Both nitrates and pesticides belong to the group of main pollutants (Annex VIII, WFD) and many pesticides are among the priority substances (Annex X). The ‘one out - all out’ approach of the WFD means that if a water body fails to achieve good status as a result of pesticides or nitrates pollution, the country will be subject to fines and other penalties. The contribution of the WFD to the FAIRWAY objective is generally valued as being highly positive, yet also somehow dependent upon the implementation of related directives such as the Nitrates and Pesticides Directives.
Overall, the results suggest that some of the requirements are more relevant than others. To illustrate, establishing an overarching framework for achieving or maintaining good water status is imperative for the FAIRWAY objective, while developing management strategies for river basins alone is not sufficient; multiple scales of management are necessary to achieve outcomes. It is also argued that the river basin approach focuses primarily on surface waters, which can be used for many other purposes than only drinking water resources. Importantly though, the river basin management plans and programs of measures could be designed so that they contribute to reductions in nitrates and pesticides. Therefore, these tools contribute positively to the achievement of the overarching FAIRWAY objective, insofar that these plans are accompanied by substantive obligations to decrease pollution. The procedural requirements are vaguely formulated, so their actual contribution does depend on the implementation by member states.
The WFD contains several requirements and objectives. For the purpose of this assessment, we asked respondents to score four key requirements, those related to preventing deterioration, measures and artificial water bodies, reducing pollution, and the establishment of frameworks. The first three are considered substantive requirements, whereas the final one is more of a procedural nature. These four requirements have been assessed and scored in terms of their coherence with key requirements of the GWD, DWD, ND and PD.
Table 3. 1 Four key requirements of the WFD
|Preventing deterioration||Protect surface waters and groundwater to, inter alia, prevent their further deterioration and enhance their status, and to promote sustainable water use (art 1.1)|
|Measures and artificial water bodies||Implement the necessary measures to prevent deterioration of the status of all bodies of surface water (art. 4.1(a)(i)); and protect, enhance and restore all bodies of surface water to achieve good water status (art. 4.1(a)(ii)). MS shall also protect and enhance all artificial and heavily modified bodies of water, with the aim of achieving good ecological potential and good surface water chemical status (art. 4.1(a)(iii))|
|Reducing pollution||Implement the necessary measures with the aim of progressively reducing pollution from priority substances and ceasing or phasing out emissions, discharges and losses of priority hazardous substances (WFD art. 4.1(a)(iv)).|
|Establishing frameworks||Establish a framework for achieving or maintaining good status of inland surface waters, coastal waters, transitional waters and groundwater (WFD. art. 1). Identify river basins in their area (Art. 3.1), identify all bodies of water used for significant abstraction for human consumption (art.7), produce river basin management plans for each river basin (art. 13.1), and to establish a programme of measures.|
Art. 1.1 of the WFD requires member states to protect surface waters and groundwater to, inter alia, prevent their further deterioration and enhance their status, and to promote sustainable water use. The extent to which requirements of the GWD, DWD, PD and ND are coherent with the WFD requirement to prevent deterioration, was scored using the same 7-point Likert-scale as was used to assess coherence above. This approach was used to determine whether there are any requirements that may impede the attainment of the requirement to prevent deterioration.
Scores were given to assess the cohesion between each requirement of the four other directives, and the requirement to prevent deterioration stipulated under the WFD. The average score for cohesion between other directives and preventing deterioration indicates that the respondents perceive that other directives (M = 1,9) contribute positively to the aim to prevent deterioration. On average, the requirements of the GWD are perceived to be most contributive to the WFD (M = 3). The scores to the four requirements of the GWD contained no variability. All four requirements are scored as indivisible (+3). Since the GWD is a daughter directive to the WFD and as such directly related, this is an expected result.
The requirements of the ND are also considered to contribute positively to preventing deterioration (M = 2.2). The ND forms an integral part of the WFD. In particular, the requirement to apply common criteria for water pollution, that groundwater should not contain more than 50 mg/l nitrates, and that surface waters should not be eutrophic (ND, Annex I) is perceived to be indivisible (+3) and, thus, highly contributive. The requirement of the ND to identify vulnerable zones which drain into waters which are, or could be, affected by pollution within a 2-year period (Art. 3.2) is considered to be equally indivisible (+3). Respondents emphasized that although there may be challenges for implementation that may reduce the contribution of the ND to preventing deterioration, the framework outlined in the ND has high contributive potential.
The requirements of the DWD were also identified as important contributions to preventing deterioration under the WFD. However, it was noted that the DWD primarily focuses on the water quality at the tap, rather than within wider catchments. The revision of the DWD introduces a risk-based safety assessment to the monitoring of water at the tap, enabling authorities to concentrate resources on potential risks, to avoid analyses of non-occurring parameters and identify possible risks to water sources at distribution level. Respondents identified a possible mismatch between this risk-based approach at the tap and the WFD. The respondents suggested that the risk-based approach at the tap should be better linked to protecting drinking water resources within wider catchments, and Article 7 of the WFD. Due to this gap, there is some uncertainty about how to realise the contributive potential of the DWD.
For the aim of preventing deterioration, no negative interactions have been identified between the WFD and the requirements and objectives of the GWD, DWD, PD, and ND. Of note, the requirements associated with the PD were scored much lower than for other directives. However, no explanation was offered regarding this scoring. Similarly, given that the ND forms an integral part of the WFD, it was anticipated that all requirements of the ND would be indivisible (+3) from requirements of the WFD. In contrast, the respondents gave variable scores, and scored some requirements much lower than expected. This suggests the relationships may be more complex than originally anticipated, and that there may be some uncertainty around the coherence of these directives.
Measures and artificial water bodies
Art. 4.1 (a)(i)-(iii)) of the WFD requires member states to implement the necessary measures to prevent deterioration of the status of all bodies of surface water (art. 4.1(a)(i)); and protect, enhance and restore all bodies of surface water to achieve good water status (art. 4.1(a)(ii)). Member states shall also protect and enhance all artificial and heavily modified bodies of water, with the aim of achieving good ecological potential and good surface water chemical status (art. 4.1(a)(iii)). It has been assessed to what extent the requirements of the GWD, DWD, PD and ND are coherent with this, and whether there are any requirements that impede the attainment of these requirements related to measures and artificial water bodies.
The scores for the contribution of the other directives to the WFD requirement related to measures and artificial water bodies were highly variable. While the requirements of the GWD and the PD are perceived to contribute positively to the aim to implement the necessary measures and to protect artificial water bodies (M = 1 and M = 1.1 respectively), the scores assigned to the requirements of the DWD and ND were only marginally positive, and in some instances were negative. The requirements that are perceived to contribute negatively are those stipulating that the amount of livestock manures applied on land shall not exceed 170 kg/ha each year (ND, Annex III), and the requirement to apply common criteria for water pollution. Groundwaters should not contain more than 50 mg/l nitrates, and surface waters should not be eutrophic. (ND, Annex I). Both these requirements are considered to be cancelling (-3) the WFD requirements pursuant to the respondent.
Responses to open-ended survey items give some explanation to the negative scorings for the requirements of the ND. The respondent clarified that, in some countries, such as the Netherlands, the assignment of waterbodies as artificial or heavily modified pursuant to the WFD implies that the specific ecological objectives are being set at a provincial level, for instance, at the level of nutrients. The application rules for manure are set at national level for 5 soil types and related to a human-health based standard of nitrates in groundwater. The objectives of the ND are primarily related to drinking water quality and only to ecology in the context of eutrophication. For nutrients, objectives are stricter for ecology than for drinking water quality purposes. On this basis, the respondents argue that existing general rules on the use of manure and pesticides are not comprehensive enough to support WFD ambitions. Importantly, these views represent the subjective assessment of one project partner. As such, further research is needed to consider the potential gap highlighted here. It needs to be emphasized also that the limits to the amount of livestock manures and nitrates threshold values, are only one on a long list of obligatory measures to decrease leaching of nitrogen.
Art. 4.1 (a)(iv) of the WFD requires member states to implement the necessary measures with the aim of progressively reducing pollution from priority substances and ceasing or phasing out emissions, discharges and losses of priority hazardous substances. It has been assessed to what extent the requirements of the GWD, DWD, PD and ND are coherent with this, and whether there are any requirements that impede the attainment of the requirement to reduce pollution.
Overall, the scores assigned by the project contributor indicate that all requirements of the directives are perceived to be neutral (0) or enabling (+1) the requirement to implement measures to reduce pollution (M = 0.2). For the purpose of reducing pollution, no negative interactions have been identified.
Many of these scores are unexpected. While the perspectives reflected in the scoring are subjective, it could be assumed that many of the interactions, in particular those associated with the ND, should be clearly contributive to the WFD requirements. All measures in the ND aim to reduce nitrates pollution of waters. Thus, further investigation is required in WP6 to unravel the basis for these scores and partly diverging views.
Art. 1 of the WFD requires member states to establish a framework for achieving or maintaining good status of inland surface waters, coastal waters, transitional waters and groundwater (Art. 1). Member states are further required to identify river basins in their area (Art. 3.1), identify all bodies of water used for significant abstraction for human consumption (art.7), produce river basin management plans for each river basin (art. 13.1), and to establish a programme of measures. It has been assessed to what extent the requirements of the GWD, DWD, PD and ND are coherent with these requirements, and whether there are any requirements that may impede their attainment.
The scores assigned suggests that, on average, all the directives were perceived to contribute positively to the above requirements (M = 1.6). On average, the requirements related to the GWD have been scored most positively (M = 2). In particular the requirement to prevent and control groundwater pollution by forming criteria for (1) assessment of good groundwater chemical status and for (2) identification and reversal of significant and sustained upward trends and for the definition of starting points for trend reversals (GWD, art. 1), has been identified as the most contributive (+3) to the WFD for the purpose of establishing frameworks and related procedural requirements.
No negative interactions were identified between the WFD requirement to establish frameworks, and other directives.
Overall, several strong interactions have been identified between the requirements of the WFD, and the requirements stipulated under other key directives. In particular, the requirements of the GWD was judged to contribute very highly to the WFD, something which is an expected result given the nature of the GWD as a daughter directive. Also the ND, which forms an integral part of the WFD, contributes positively to the aim of preventing deterioration. In particular the requirement to apply common criteria for water pollution and the requirement that groundwaters should not contain more than 50 mg/l nitrates, and surface waters should not be eutrophic is considered to be positive. The ND’s requirement to identify vulnerable zones which drain into waters which are or could be affected by pollution within a 2-year period (Art. 3.2) is considered to be equally important.
However, the scores given by the project partner suggests that some requirements of the ND might challenge the objectives and requirements of the WFD. In particular, the respondents suggest that there is a potential disconnect between drinking water requirements and requirements that affect water quality in wider catchments. For example, in theory, the requirements of the ND related to the amount of livestock manures applied on land, to apply common criteria for water pollution, and to limit values of 50 mg/l nitrates should target both drinking water quality and wider ecological conditions that impact water quality in catchments. In practice, these linkages are seldom realised due to various complexities. Importantly, these perspectives may reflect the knowledge of the project partner about the intricacies of the ND. Therefore, these suggestions warrant further investigation.
Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see