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Brussels, 22 March 2007

Water Policy: Member States must do more to achieve good water quality

The European Commission today published a report on the performance of Europe Union Member States in implementing the Water Framework Directive. The aim of the directive is to achieve a good level of water quality for all rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater in the European Union by 2015. While the results of the report are mixed, it is clear that Member States must do more to achieve the directive's objective. Despite this the Commission is confident that it is possible to reach this goal by 2015. Today, the Commission is also launching the Water Information System for Europe, a web portal developed with the European Environment Agency that gathers a wide range of water-related data from across the European Union.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Sustainable water management is vital to protect biodiversity, the well-being of citizens and the competitiveness of European industries. The Water Framework Directive and other directives on water are part of an ambitious policy to protect and manage this vital natural resource. Water management is increasingly important as we adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change.

Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik added: "I am delighted that our scientists responded to the challenge of developing the first operational system that enables actors in Member States to accurately deliver environmental and geospatial data to the European Commission and its partners. Robust science is indispensable for policy-making that serves the best interests of European citizens. "

Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, Jacqueline McGlade adds: "European citizens have the right to know about the status of European waters and how well EU water policy delivers. The new Water Information System for Europe bundles data that was previously unavailable or fragmented. Today's launch is only the start. By 2010, we want to make WISE the most comprehensive water information system in the world."

Achieving good water quality

The aim of the 2000 Water Framework Directive (WFD) is to achieve by 2015 good water quality for all waters across the European Union. Under the directive Member States are obliged to adopt River Basin Management Plans by the end of 2009. The document published today reports on Member States' progress to date in adapting their legislation and putting in place the structures for good water management.

The reports submitted by all 27 Member States show that significant progress has been made. However, they also indicate a number of shortcomings. One of these is the inappropriate transposition of the directive into national law and another is the considerable lag by a number of Member States in incorporating economic instruments into water management systems.

Cooperation on cross-border issues such as water pollution between Member States and countries like Russia and Turkey also needs to be improved.

The Commission has also published two other related reports. The first is the latest implementation report of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. This directive requires Member States to build adequate treatment facilities for municipalities over a certain size. The Commission found that only 51% of all treatment plants in the European Union – before enlargement in 2004 - met the standards under that directive. The second report is on implementation of the Nitrates Directive, which aims to reduce and prevent nitrate pollution from agricultural sources in surface water and groundwater. The implementation of that directive remains incomplete in a number of Member States and the pollution trends vary considerably across the European Union.

Other water issues

A number of other directives form part of the European Union's policy on water. These include the directives on bathing water, groundwater, and drinking water, and other forthcoming directives on the marine environment and flood management, which are at the proposal stage of the decision-making process.

Water Information System for Europe

The Water Information System for Europe is a web portal which provides the public with a wealth of information on water and water-related topics such as bathing and other water quality data and information on urban wastewater treatment sites. The portal is a collaborative effort between the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission (Environment, Joint Research Centre and Eurostat).

European Water Conference

On World Water Day (22 March 2007) the Commission starts a two-day conference which will be opened by Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and attended by the German and Portuguese Environment Ministers Sigmar Gabriel and Francisco Nunes Correia.

The conference will be open to the public via webstreaming.

For more information

Water Framework Directive

Water Information System for Europe

European Water Conference (22-23 March 2007)

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