Differences and tensions have emerged across Europe about the future of EU environmental targets under the Water Framework Directive, the major piece of legislation which impacts on the water sector.
The European Commission recently convened a wide range of stakeholders including water companies to discuss the current state and future of targets under the WFD. The message from the Commission was that while a lot of good progress has been made, all member states are well short of meeting the WFD targets required by 2015.
However, the debate at times became polarised between groups continuing to push for faster environmental performance and others, such as water and sewerage providers concerned about where the money will come from to pay the extra associated costs.
Another theme that emerged was that the ‘one out all out’ rule (that a water body has to achieve all the measures to achieve good status – failing on just one is the same as failing on all) is not driving environmental best practice. While water quality is improving, this is not reflected in the statistics.
The Commission made it clear at the conference that it expects member states to be rigorous in applying the ‘polluter-pays’ principle, particularly with regard to agricultural and other diffuse pollution. Some of those speaking at the conference told the Commission the Common Agricultural Policy and WFD should be better aligned.