Water regulations

The preservation of water resources is one of the major objectives of the European Union and SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT Group's environmental policy. Many directives govern the water and sanitation sector. Here is a summary overview of the regulations on water management.

General framework

      • Water Framework Directive – 2000/60/EC Published: 22 December 2000 / Deadline for transposition: 22 December 2003

The Framework Directive aims to restore the quality of groundwater and surface water by 2015.

To achieve this goal, the Water Framework Directive requires member states to:

- reduce discharges of substances considered most dangerous to the environment and health,

- develop and implement plans for watershed management programmes and measures for each of them,

- keep the European Commission informed of the results of actions taken to restore the quality of groundwater and surface water by 2015.

Moreover, this Directive consolidates the principle of “polluter pays” in the field of water management: those responsible for environmental damage must pay the full costs of repairing damage.

      • Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources
        Publication date : 14 November 2012

This blueprint, launched by the European Commission in November 14th 2012, sets out a strategy for ensuring that enough good quality water is available to meet the needs of people, the economy and the environment throughout the Union.

To achieve the already existing Water Framework Directive objective of good water status by 2015, the Water Blueprint sets out a three-tier strategic approach:

- improving implementation of current EU water policy by making full use of the opportunities provided by the current laws.

- increasing the integration of water policy objectives into other relevant policy areas such as agriculture, fisheries, renewable energy, transport and the Cohesion and Structural Funds.

Filling the gaps of the current framework, particularly in relation to the tools needed to increase water efficiency. In this regard, the Water Blueprint envisages water accounts and water efficiency targets to be set by Member States and the development of EU standards for water re-use.


Water resources

                                                                                      • Water scarcity and drought – COM [2007] 414 Published: 2007 

In several countries in Europe, water scarcity has been identified as a serious threat that must be taken into account. Communication from the European Commission on this subject presents member states with a set of recommendations and strategic guidelines to address this problem. The European Commission underlines the key nature of the full implementation of the Water Framework Directive. It also recommends the establishment of policies for effective water pricing based on economic analysis of the uses and value of water. The European Commission also calls for the development of an effective Community framework directive for funding water supply infrastructure. The optimisation of existing infrastructures should be given precedent before any new construction.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Directive establishing environmental quality standards in the field of water – 2008/105/EC Published: 24 December  2008 / Deadline for transposition: 13 July 2010 

This Directive supplements Directive 2006/11/EC on pollution caused by certain dangerous substances discharged into aquatic environments, which lists eight priority substances to be removed from surface waters. It sets quality standards for surface waters, and establishes concentration limits for 33 substances called “priority” substances because of the significant risk they pose to health and the environment. Among these priority substances, 13 are considered dangerous and should therefore no longer be emitted by 2021. The emission of other substances should be reduced to the level of national objectives. Moreover, the European Commission proposed on January 31 2012 the addition of 15 new substances subject to the restrictions laid down in the Directive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Directive on the protection of groundwater against pollution and deterioration – 2006/118/EC Published: 27 December 27, 2006 / Deadline for transposition: January 16, 2009 

This Directive aims to protect groundwater from pollution and degradation by preventing and limiting the discharge of pollutants into the environment. It establishes different criteria for assessing the chemical status of groundwater and levels of pollution. In addition, member states must establish upper limits for pollutants present in groundwater identified as being “at risk”.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Directive on the treatment of urban wastewater – 91/271/EEC Published: May 30, 1991 / Deadline for transposition: June 30, 1993 

This Directive aims to protect the environment from the adverse effects of urban wastewater discharges. It introduces four major requirements:

- efficient collection of wastewater and secondary treatment of it in inhabited areas of more than 2,000 people,

- definition, at national level, of “sensitive areas” where nitrogen and/or phosphorus treatment is required,

- requirement of good sanitation system reliability and the requirement to monitor those systems,

- the possibility of using “non-collective” sanitation systems on the condition that they provide “the same level of environmental protection”.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Nitrate Directive – 91/676/EEC Published: December 31, 1991 / Deadline for transposition: December 20, 1993 

This Directive aims to protect waters from the harmful effects of nitrates from agricultural sources. To this end, member states should:

- guarantee the monitoring of their groundwater,

- identify surface waters and groundwater that are or may be affected by agricultural pollution,

- identify and delineate “vulnerable areas” every 4 years,

- apply the codes of good agricultural practices, at least within “vulnerable areas”.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Directive on the protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture – 86/278/EEC Published: July 4, 1986 / Deadline for transposition: June 18, 1989 

This Directive aims to optimise the use of sludge from wastewater treatment in agriculture while preventing its adverse effects on health and the environment. It prohibits the use of untreated sludge in agriculture, unless it is injected or incorporated into the soil. The Directive sets upper limits for heavy metals concentration in the sludge. It also requires member states to provide detailed information on their sewage sludge (quantity produced, the amount used in agriculture, type of treatment received or composition).


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption – 98/83/EC Published: December 5, 1998 / Deadline for transposition: December 25, 2000 

The directive on drinking water defines the quality standard of the water distributed to consumers based on various parameters (turbidity, chlorite, arsenic, organohalogen compounds, nickel, etc.). Lead is especially affected by this directive, which aims to eventually eliminate any contact between water and lead pipes. Moreover, this Directive requires member states to regularly inform consumers about the quality of water distributed. The forthcoming revision of the Directive is expected to integrate the preventive management of health risks recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Directive concerning the management of the quality of bathing water – 2006/07/EC Published: March 4, 2006 / Deadline for transposition: March 24, 2008 

To protect the health and the environment, the Directive aims to reduce and prevent pollution of swimming water. Member states are required to establish procedures for risk assessment then monitor and evaluate the quality of swimming water. In addition, information about the classification, description of swimming waters, and their pollution potential must be easily accessible to the public, close to the area affected.

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