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Brussels, 27 January 2011

Environment: Commission urges Spain to submit river basin management plans

The European Commission is urging Spain to comply with EU water legislation and submit plans for managing its river basins, which are essential for achieving the EU's objective of 'good status' for European waters by 2015. The plans should have been adopted by 22 December 2009 at the latest, and delayed plans could mean a failure to deliver the water quality required. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, a reasoned opinion is therefore being sent. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer Spain to the European Court of Justice.

Directive 2000/60/EC is Europe's key tool for protecting the quality of its waters. It establishes a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, and obliges Member States to publish a management plan for each river district at the latest nine years after the Directive entered into force. Member States sharing international rivers must work together to produce a single international river basin management plan.

The Water Framework Directive requires Member States to consult the public and other interested parties on the plans and publish draft copies, allowing six months for comments in writing. Because of these requirements, all public consultations should have started at the latest in December 2008. Spain has failed to adopt these plans – with the exception of the plan for the Catalonia River Basin District ("Distrito de Cuenca Fluvial de Cataluña"). This means citizens have no certainty yet how their water resources will be managed.

The delay in submitting river basin plans puts the achievement of the Directive's objective at risk. Further delays will have a knock on effect for the overall implementation of the Directive, on the establishment of measures and ultimately on improvement of the water environment. As plans for 24 other river basin districts are still missing, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion, urging Spain to speed up procedures to adopt the plans. Spain has two months to comply.


The Water Framework Directive obliges Member States to protect and restore all bodies of ground water and surface water (rivers, lakes, canals and coastal water) to achieve "good status" by 2015 at the latest, meaning that the waters show as few traces of human impact as possible. River basin management plans give a comprehensive overview of the main issues for each river basin district and should include the specific measures needed to achieve set environmental quality objectives. Where any exemptions are applied, a thorough justification must be provided.

Following up late transposition of EU legislation by Member States is a priority for the Commission. For previous infringement press releases relating to river basin management plans, see: IP/10/1413 and IP/10/1570.

Further information

For further information on the consultation and adoption status of river basin management plans, visit:

More details on water policy:

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:


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