The European Commission on 18 July 2006 announced that it had completed its clean water policy with a proposal for a directive on environmental quality standards for surface waters.
The proposal would limit concentrations in surface waters of 41 types of pesticides, heavy metals and other dangerous chemical substances was. It was described by the Commission as "the final major piece of legislation needed to support the Water Framework Directive (WFD), the cornerstone of EU water protection policy".
"The WFD requires that all EU waters should achieve good status by 2015. It establishes a new regime for the prevention and control of chemical pollution of water. The new proposal will implement this for surface waters", the Commission said.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) regards universal access to water as "a fundamental right." "Services in the EU need a strong regulatory framework to ensure continuity of supply and fair access for everyone," said ETUC General Secretary John Monks. "They must be of the highest standard, and therefore accountable to both consumers and workers in these crucial sectors."
The Dow Chemical Company is trying to position itself as a leader in water treatment technologies - desalination, water purification, contaminant removal and water recycling - with the launch of a new business unit, Dow Water Solutions, in September 2006.
Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO said: "We approach the challenge of developing water resources not in a spirit of charity but as a business, in a spirit of enterprise."
In a report released in March 2007 ahead of World Water Day, conservation organisation WWF listed the Danube in a list of ten rivers considered most at risk in the world, warning that it is "fast dying as a result of dams, pollution and climate change".
"Over 80% of the original floodplain area along the Danube and its main tributaries has been lost since the beginning of the 19th century," the WWF said, accusing "canalisation and construction of dykes and dams over the last 200 years". "Further canalising the river results not only in loss of biodiversity and wetlands - thereby increasing problems with flood management - but can also draw down water tables, risking access to drinking water for 20 million people in the region", the WWF warned. "In fact, over 85% of the Danube could fail to meet the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive, which aims to achieve 'good status' of all European waters by 2015".
On 17 July 2006, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the WWF issued a joint letter complaining about the failure of eleven member states - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Sweden and The Netherlands - to comply with the provisions of the EU Water Framework Directive.
The NGOs said they were concerned about a narrow interpretation of the directive’s article 5, which defines what constitutes a 'water service'.
"This leads to a situation where many water infrastructure works, like dams, weirs and dykes serving hydropower, navigation, agriculture irrigation and flood defence are excluded from any transparent economic appraisal including their environmental and resource costs," the NGOs warned. And according to the WWF and the EEB, those infrastructure works "are identified in the same reports in most cases as a major environmental problem, contributing to the failure to achieve the WFD’s overall objective."
In relation to the December 2006 agreement on a new Groundwater directive (EURACTIV 13/12/06), pesticide manufacturers at the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) advised maintaining coherence with existing strict EU laws on authorisation of chemicals used in plant-protection products. Substances that have already been assessed and authorised, said ECPA, "should not be considered hazardous in the context of member state implementation measures under the new groundwater directive".
However, the agreement was welcomed by environmental groups: "Members of the European Parliament have successfully fought off attempts by governments to re-nationalise groundwater protection," said the EEB's EU Policy Director Stefan Scheuer. "They ensured that preventing pollution and achieving quality standards is robust and legally binding."