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Other substances: protection of groundwater

This Directive prohibits or limits the discharge of certain dangerous substances into groundwater and establishes systematic monitoring of the quality of such water. It will be repealed by the Water Framework Directive as of 21 December 2013.


Council Directive 80/68/EEC of 17 December 1979 on the protection of groundwater against pollution caused by certain dangerous substances [See amending acts].


The purpose of this Directive is to prevent the discharge of certain toxic, persistent and bioaccumulable substances into groundwater.

The following are not covered:

  • discharges of domestic effluents from isolated dwellings;
  • discharges containing substances listed in Directive 80/68/EEC in very small quantities and concentrations;
  • discharges of matter containing radioactive substances.

There are two lists of dangerous substances drawn up for the protection of groundwater:

  • direct discharge of substances in List I is prohibited. This list includes organohalogen, organophosphorus and organotin compounds, mercury and cadmium and their compounds, and hydrocarbons and cyanides;
  • discharge of substances in List II must be limited. This list includes certain metals such as copper, zinc, lead and arsenic, and other substances such as fluorides, toxic or persistent organic compounds of silicon, and biocides and their derivatives not appearing in List I.

All indirect discharges of substances in List I and all direct or indirect discharges of substances in List II are subject to prior authorisation. Such authorisation:

  • is granted after an investigation into the receiving environment;
  • is granted for a limited period and subject to regular review;
  • lays down the conditions that have to be met for discharges. If they have not been or cannot be met, the authorisation is withdrawn or refused.

Monitoring of compliance with these conditions and of the effects of discharges on groundwater is the responsibility of the competent authorities of the Member States.

The Directive provides for exceptions, under certain conditions, to the ban on discharges of substances in List I.

It also lays down special rules for artificial recharges of groundwater intended for public water supplies.

The competent authorities of the Member States must keep an inventory of authorisations:

  • of discharges of substances in List I;
  • of direct discharges of substances in List II;
  • of artificial recharges for the purpose of groundwater management.

The Member States concerned must inform one another in the event of discharges into transboundary groundwater.

Member States may introduce more stringent measures than those laid down in this Directive.

Every three years, reports by the Member States on the implementation of Directive 80/68/EEC and other relevant Directives, drawn up on the basis of a questionnaire or outline drafted by the Commission in accordance with the procedure laid down in Directive 91/692/EEC. The Commission is responsible for publishing a report on the basis of this information.


ActEntry into force - Date of expiryDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 80/68/EEC19.12.197919.12.1983OJ L 20 of 26.01.1980

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 91/692/EEC23.12.199101.01.1993OJ L 377 of 31.12.1991


Directive 2000/60/ECof the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy [Official Journal L 327 of 22.12.2000].
This Directive repeals Directive 80/68/EC as of 21 December 2013.

Commission Decision 92/446/EEC of 27 July 1992 concerning questionnaires relating to Directives in the water sector [Official Journal L 247 of 27.08.1992].
This Decision draws up the outlines of questionnaires needed to monitor the implementation of and compliance with the provisions of all Directives in the water sector, including Directive 80/68/EEC.

Last updated: 31.08.2006
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