The protection and management of freshwater resources is a vital task for Europe. Pollution from agriculture, industry and urban areas continues to contaminate water courses, threatening human health and the environment. Dams, solid embankments and other land use changes also harm the ecosystems of rivers, lakes and wetlands.

The EU Water Framework Directive is an innovative piece of legislation to address these problems, together with other EU Directives (on drinking water, bathing water, floods, wastewater treatment plants and others); however, their full implementation across the EU has not yet been achieved. Moreover, climate change brings new threats: higher risks of flooding in northern Europe especially; and projections that water scarcity and drought will increase in southern Europe. Better water management is thus a key challenge for the EU, for Europe’s neighbours in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, and for countries around the world.

Milieu supports the European Commission on the implementation of several water policies, through compliance assessments and studies on technical issues. We assess implementation at EU and Member State levels. We currently hold the framework contract on ‘Water for Citizens’ which supports the Commission’s policy activities on bathing water, drinking water and urban wastewater treatment (DG Environment, 2016-2019). Milieu has also provided legal assistance and training on water management for EU Candidate Countries as well as Europe’s neighbours in Eastern Europe.

Some examples of Milieu’s work in this field are:

Study supporting the evaluation and impact assessment of the EU Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and the Council concerning the management of bathing water quality

From late spring to early autumn, as European beaches become crowded with bathers, water quality needs to be monitored. The new Bathing Water Directive has helped to improve bathing water quality across Europe and reduce detrimental impacts on human health. However, despite these results, significant problems in Member State implementation of the Directive remain.

Milieu has supported the Commission with the evaluation and impact assessment of the Directive. This enables the Commission to fulfil its obligations under Article 14(3), which requires the Commission to review the Directive with regard to the parameters for bathing water quality.

Support to the assessment of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC and the Floods Directive (FD) 2007/60/EC9 plans and implementation

Good quality water is essential for wildlife, agriculture and business to thrive. River Basin Management Plans are a requirement of the WFD: they should protect and ensure the sustainable use of the water environment across Europe. Similarly, the FD requires Member States to draw up Flood Risk Management Plans.

Milieu helped the Commission in the assessment of these plans in the 28 Member States (carried out by Milieu’s partner WRc under the Water Framework Directive and under Milieu’s lead for the Floods Directive).

Support to the Commission on analysis of information and follow-up related to the fulfilment of the requirements of EU Water Legislation (EU Pilots)

Milieu is involved in the analysis of Member States’ information, and has performed related follow-up, concerning the fulfilment of the requirements of EU Water Legislation, in particular Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy (the Water Framework Directive, or WFD). Milieu contributes to this project via support to the initial assessment, and compliance checking of the implementation of existing legislation.