Implementation of the EC-Directives

Water Framework Directive



WFD-EN.pdf887,72 KB 2020.12.22
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is an integrated legal act issued by European Union and is binding for all EU members.

The basic objective of WFD is to provide present and future generations access to good quality water and to enable to use it for the needs of, among others, industry and agriculture, while maintaining and protecting natural environment at the same time. Unfounded lack of implementation results in imposing sanctions.

New approach

WFD, with its modern and complex approach to the water management issues, presents the following key aims:

  • incorporating all requirements for management of water status into one single system,

  • coordinating all the measures taken on individual problems and sectors to achieve the objectives so defined, and to define the relationship between emission limit value measures and quality standards,

  • expanding the scope of water protection to all waters, surface waters and groundwater,

  • achieving "good status" for all waters by a set deadline,

  • water management based on river basins,

  • "combined approach" of emission limit values and quality standards,

  • getting the prices right,

  • getting the citizenS involved more closely.

Water law harmonization

The European Union issued a series of acts called ‘water directives’, however, it recognized the necessity to implement consistent framework regulating legal acts concerning water management. Water Framework Directive introduced new, different approach to the water protection issues and provides harmonization and better clarity into legislation in this area.

River basin management

The best model for a single system of water management is management by river basin - the natural geographical and hydrological unit - instead of according to administrative or political boundaries. EU countries are obliged to establish so called river basin areas. It is possible to integrate with those areas smaller adjacent stream basins. For each river basin district - some of which will traverse national frontiers - a “river basin management plan” will need to be established and updated every six years, and this will provide the context for the co-ordination requirements identified above.

Water condition assessment

In European legislation to date, a number of different aims in respect of which the quality of water should be protected have been identified. The key ones at European level are general protection of the aquatic ecology, specific protection of unique and valuable habitats, protection of drinking water resources, and protection of bathing water. All these must be integrated for each river basin. It is clear that the last three – special habitats, drinking water areas and bathing water – apply only to specific bodies of water. In contrast, ecological protection should apply to all waters: the central requirement of the Treaty is that the environment be protected to a high level in its entirety. The Directive takes all this into account in defining its quality objective arm, one half of the Combined Approach.

Surface water

A general requirement for ecological protection, and a general minimum chemical standard, was introduced to cover all surface waters. These are the two elements "good ecological status" and "good chemical status". Good ecological status is defined in terms of the quality of the biological community, the hydrological characteristics and the chemical characteristics. As no absolute standards for biological quality can be set which apply across the Community, because of ecological variability, the controls are specified as allowing only a slight departure from the biological community. Good chemical status is defined in terms of compliance with all the quality standards established for chemical substances at European level.

Integrated approach

The framework comprises the development of a list of priority substances for action at EU level, prioritized on the basis of risk; and then the design of the most cost-effective set of measures to achieve load reduction of those substances, taking into account both product and process sources.
On the effects side, it co-ordinates all the environmental objectives in existing legislation, and provides a new overall objective of good status for all waters, and requires that where the measures taken on the source side are not sufficient to achieve these objectives, additional ones are required.


There have been established two standards for groundwater quality assessment: physicochemical and quantitative criteria.


The WFD requires the establishment of monitoring programs in order to trace the respective stages implementation processes. Monitoring information is needed for assessment of long-term changes whose causes are both natural and anthropogenic and assessment of compliance with standards and objectives. Accordingly, a network of monitoring sites is to be established to classify all water bodies using a combination of surveillance, operational and investigative monitoring of prescribed quality elements to satisfy the information needs identified above. There are three main monitoring programs:

  • Surveillance Monitoring – used to asses complete water condition,

  • Operational Monitoring - used to determine the status of water bodies identified as being at risk,

  • Investigative Monitoring - carried out where the reason of any exceedance for ecological and chemical status is unknown.

Public participation

Society has right and will have an opportunity to take part in co-decision making process, mainly in drawing up the schedules and defining the projects content. The decisions on the most appropriate measures to achieve the objectives in the river basin management plan will involve balancing the interests of various groups. The economic analysis requirement is intended to provide a rational basis for this, but it is essential that the process is open to the scrutiny of those who will be affected. The Member States governments are in charge of WFD implementation process and it is their duty to provide the best way for their societies to take part in WFD aims accomplishment.

Timetable for implementation

The WFD sets out a clear deadlines for each of the requirements which adds up to an ambitious overall timetable. All the Member States are obliged to present to the European Commission reports concerning respective stages.

Till year:

  • 2000 - Directive entered into force

  • 2003 - Transposition in national legislation
    Identification of River Basin Districts and Authorities

  • 2004 - Characterization of river basin: pressures, impacts and economic analysis

  • 2006 - Establishment of monitoring network Start public consultation (at the latest)

  • 2009 - Finalization of the river basin management plan including, programme of measures

  • 2012 - Making operational programmes of measures

  • 2015 - Meet environmental objectives. Second river basin management plan & first flood risk management plan.

Once the first stages are completed, since 2009 there will be introduced so called six year cycle.


Last update: 2023.09.15