EU freshwater policies


EU water policies comprise a large body of legislation covering areas as diverse as flood management, bathing-water quality, chemicals in water, clean drinking water, groundwater protection and urban waste water. The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted in 2000, was introduced to streamline the EU's large body of water legislation into one over-arching strategy.

Horizontal Tabs


With the first directives introduced in the 1970's, Europe has long been taking measures to ensure the quality of its water resources. Today, the challenge lies in tackling the pollution and overexploitation of freshwater in agriculture, industry and other human activities. According to Commission statistics:

  • 20% of all surface water in the EU is seriously threatened with pollution;
  • 60% of European cities overexploit their groundwater resources which supply around 65% of all drinking water in Europe;
  • 50% of wetlands have "endangered status" due to groundwater over-exploitation, and;
  • the area of irrigated land in Southern Europe has increased by 20% since 1985.

Eurobarometer opinion survey showed that nearly half of Europeans (EU-25) are worried about water pollution (47%), with figures for individual countries going up as far as 71%.