European Union legislation

The EU takes a keen interest in water quality. Achieving a high level of protection for Europe’s water is one of the key objectives of the European Commission’s Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources, published in November 2012.

There are four principal pieces of EU legislation on water:

  • The 1998 Drinking Water Directive which sets out water quality standards for a number of substances and upon which the UK’s Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2000 are based
  • The 1991 Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive which deals with the treatment and discharge of sewage.
  • The 2006 Bathing Water Directive which sets out quality standards for areas of natural water used for bathing.
  • The 2001 Water Framework Directive which regulates the way Europe’s river basins are managed and sets out environmental objectives for water sources across the continent.

The Water Framework Directive requires member states to both prevent any deterioration in the quality of their water and to protect, enhance and restore water bodies, where necessary, so that they can be classified as being “of good status” by 2015. To help them do this, the Directive contains a set of indicators defining what constitutes high, good and moderate status for a range of elements.

It requires member states to prevent or limit the input of pollutants into groundwater and to prevent the deterioration of the status of all bodies of groundwater within their territories. Information on what the UK is doing to implement the Directive can be found at here.

In addition, the 2004 Environmental Liability Directive aims to prevent and remediate all serious damage to natural resources including any waters to which the Water Framework Directive applies.

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