Rivers, lakes and wetlands are all protected under the EU Water Framework Directive. This law is critical to ensure that Europe’s freshwater ecosystems are protected and brought back to good health.
Member States are required to achieve good health for these waters by 2027 at the very latest. But many countries are currently trying to weaken the law.
Hands off the water law
The law is under review by the European Commission and 375,386 people answered the call to speak out against weakening it, making it one of the largest public consultations ever in the history of the European Union.
We will continue to work with our partners in the #ProtectWater campaign to ensure that the Water Framework Directive remains intact, and that it is fully implemented by Member States and enforced by the European Commission so that Europe’s waters are returned to good health by 2027.
What’s the problem?
The EU water law protects our freshwater ecosystems. According to the latest data, 60% of Europe’s rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands are unhealthy. For generations we have destroyed and polluted them, and used too much water irresponsibly.
Everyone has a part to play, but our governments are allowing our waters to be exploited in ways that cause permanent harm. For example, dams and other infrastructure (e.g. for hydropower, flood defence and navigation) disrupt a river’s natural flow and stop species from reproducing. Unsustainable agriculture pollutes and uses lots of water.
What’s the solution?
Turning back the clock on this deterioration cannot be done without strong legislation. In Europe, we have a strong law that protects our rivers, lakes, wetlands, streams, coastal waters and groundwater – the EU Water Framework Directive. It also ensures that waters which have already been damaged are brought back to life by 2027 at the latest.
But as you read this many governments are trying to weaken the law. This would be a terrible blow for both people and nature.
Wetlands International – European Association is a founding partner of the #ProtectWater Campaign.
With this campaign, we call upon Member States to tackle the enduring pressures on rivers and wetlands through large-scale measures for river restoration and to protect the remaining free-flowing rivers in Europe.
“Europe’s Water Framework Directive is an important policy instrument to protect and restore our waters and has proven to be successful when properly enforced. But huge gaps remain in Member States’ efforts to implement it fully. So, instead of revising the law, all attention should go to strengthening the directive’s implementation,” says policy officer Eef Silver, “No other piece of environmental legislation is better equipped to accomplish sustainable and integrated river management.”
- European Commission concludes Water Framework Directive “largely fit for purpose”
- Position paper Wetlands International – European Association
- Evidence report by Wetlands International – European Association
- Position paper NGO coalition Living Rivers Europe
- Campaign website
- Press release
- #Protectwater on Twitter