Water resources and EU

Water resources and EU

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[box] Reading between the lines of EU legislation one can perceive the trends and with a little thought one can deduct to which side’s advantage are its basic guidelines. A loud example? In the lengthy text there is not even one mention of water as a “public water” [/box]

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The main priorities of European Union today are: protecting endangered species and habitats and using natural resources more efficiently – goals that also help the economy by fostering innovation and enterprise. Whether through corrective measures relating to specific environmental problems or cross-cutting measures integrated within other policy areas, European environment policy, based on Article 174 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, aims to ensure the sustainable development of the European model of society.

EU water policy aims to:

  • give all Europeans access to good quality water in sufficient quantity
  • ensure that all water bodies across Europe meet minimum standards of cleanliness
  • preserve vulnerable aquatic environments.


One of the most important pieces of legislation in the area of water protection and management is the Water Framework Directive.

  • Water framework directive

The European Union (EU) has established a Community framework for water protection and management. Firstly, Member States must identify and analyse European waters, on the basis of individual river basin and district. They shall then adopt management plans and programmes of measures adapted to each body of water.

The management plans must be implemented in 2012. They aim to:

  • prevent deterioration, enhance and restore bodies of surface water, achieve good chemical and ecological status of such water by 2015 at the latest and to reduce pollution from discharges and emissions of hazardous substances;
  • protect, enhance and restore the status of all bodies of groundwater, prevent the pollution and deterioration of groundwater, and ensure a balance between groundwater abstraction and replenishment;
  • preserve protected areas.

Member States must ensure that water pricing policies provide adequate incentives for users to use water resources efficiently and that the various economic sectors contribute to the recovery of the costs of water services, including those relating to the environment and resources.

Member States must introduce arrangements to ensure that effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties are imposed in the event of breaches of the provisions of this Framework Directive.

  • Pricing and long-term management of water

The water pricing policy enables the pressure on water resources to be restricted and infrastructures to be maintained. Moreover, a harmonised approach to water pricing is needed in order to avoid any distortions in competition arising from uneven application of economic principles on the internal market.

For reasons of cost and political acceptability, the introduction of a new pricing system will have to be gradual. Moreover social-order considerations must be taken into account in water pricing, but must not take precedence where sustainable water resource management is under threat. Social back-up policies will be preferred to these.

In order to ease the transition to incentive pricing, it might be necessary to adapt the existing institutional framework. It would, in particular, be necessary to ensure transparency (via information and communication policies and quality/price comparisons) and the involvement of the public in water pricing polices. Monitoring water prices in order to ensure that these reflect costs in an adequate manner must also take place.

  • Quality of drinking water(Council Directive 98/83/EC)

The Directive is intended to protect human health by laying down healthiness and purity requirements which must be met by drinking water within the European Union (EU). Member states will take any action needed in order to guarantee the healthiness and purity of water intended for human consumption. Consumers shall be informed of any such action. Every three years Member States shall publish a report on the quality of drinking water for its consumers. On the basis of those reports the Commission will, every three years, draw up a summary report on the quality of the water intended for human consumption within the Community.

For further information visit http://europa.eu/pol/env/index_en.htm



Initiative for the non privatization of water in Greece