Save the EU Water Framework Directive

Today, the European Mammal Foundation is a co-signatory, along with many organisations and individual scientists, to an open letter to the EU, asking for the Water Framework Directive (WFD) to be defended against any weakening of the strong protection it gives to aquatic and wetland habitats, which are widely threatened across Europe.

Droughts, floods, wildfires are on the rise in Europe. Resilient water ecosystems are more vital than ever. But 60% of freshwater ecosystems in the EU are not healthy and freshwater species are also amongst the most threatened in Europe.

The EU Water Framework Directive is an integrated and holistic environmental legislation, designed to ensure that we will have healthy and resilient freshwater bodies to support people and nature, today and in the future.

Otter (Lutra lutra) (Photo: Yves Adams / Vilda)

The otter, a mammal that benefited from the improvement of the water quality of European freshwaters (Photo: Yves Adams / Vilda).

The strength of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) lies in:

  • Its holistic approach of integrating all parts of the wider environment as well as economic and social systems, which is essential for the success of any water management efforts;
  • The economic potential of full WFD implementation goes beyond the implementation costs of the directive, as it needs to account for the social, public health, and cultural benefits of having healthy freshwater ecosystems;
  • The effectiveness of the WFD, as is the case for any EU environmental regulation, depends upon its practical implementation by the Member States. When implemented, the Directive, since 2000, has led to some positive results, from the decrease of pollution with a number of harmful substances, such as lead and nickel, to specific successful restoration cases;
  • For further improvements in water quality and quantity to be achieved, implementation needs a new impetus from both Member States and the European Commission. Acknowledging the holistic and systemic intent of the Directive is required in its implementation, for it to deliver its full potential.

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