Freshwater

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A child taking bath in the village of Thirumullai Vasal in India, Asia.
© WWF-Canon / Yoshi SHIMIZU
Water is the foundation of all life. It is vital to people’s health and happiness, to the environment and wildlife, as well as for the economy.

Natural resources in wetlands and rivers represent billions of euros in economic benefits  and a crucial life support system on which people, plants and animals all depend. But more than half of Europe’s wetlands were destroyed during the 20th century and many water sources have been depleted by pollution, over-development and excessive use.

The Water Framework Directive
The situation needs to change and the EU Water Framework Directive, adopted in 2000, is a significant step in the right direction. The Directive is designed to protect and improve the quality of European rivers, lakes, coastal and ground waters, which should achieve ‘good status’ by 2015.

This directive establishes the ‘integrated river basin management’, which means that all activities within a river basin must be managed in a coherent and coordinated manner in order to maximise the economic and social benefits while preserving and, where necessary, restoring freshwater ecosystems.

The Directive also promotes the integration of water policy within other major EU policies to achieve sustainable development.

The Water Framework Directive offers real hope for an alternative situation where we keep our rivers clean and healthy and our wetlands wet; where we are less wasteful of our water; where the water we use is priced fairly and those who pollute it are made to pay; and where our waste is properly treated and not washed straight into waterways. But for this to happen, the Directive needs to be properly enforced.

WWF works to ensure that the Water Framework Directive is fully and properly implemented, including the integration of water policy into other EU policies and relevant financial instruments. WWF also engages to stop or re-direct potentially harmful infrastructures in key freshwater areas, such as those for inland navigation on the Danube.

WWF also focus its efforts to make sure that the goal of sustainable water management and the principle of environmental protection are included in all European laws currently under discussion affecting water, such as the Directive and environmental quality standards in the aquatic environment  and the Directive on management of flood risks.

WWF advocates for the promotion of the ‘integrated river basin management’ in the EU’s development and cooperation policy, so that this resource is also managed in a sustainable way in developing countries.

Directive on waste from extractive industry
After the devastating spills in Spain’s Doñana wetlands in 1998 and in the Rivers Tisza and Danube in 2000, WWF called for and acted as a key player in the adoption of a specific EU law to manage mining and quarrying waste, which was finally put in place in early 2006.

Making up for over 20 per cent of the EU’s total waste, mining and quarrying waste pose high social, environmental and economic risks and leave European rivers and lakes vulnerable to serious damage.
  • Contact
    Sergey Moroz
    Senior Water Policy Officer
    T: +32 2 740 09 23

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