Could this be the beer of the future? 100 environmental groups launch European campaign to save the EU water law

Posted on 09 October 2018

Over 100 NGOs have launched a new campaign calling on the European Commission to defend the EU law that protects all sources of Europe’s water, such as rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater, during its ongoing evaluation.
A lot of things go into beer production, but it all starts with good quality water. But imagine a world where your favourite beer looked, smelt and tasted like dirty water. Or instead of your usual pint, you were served up a bowl of dry, crunchy hops. That’s the scenario 100 NGOs want to prevent as they launch a new campaign calling on the European Commission to defend the EU law that protects all sources of Europe’s water, such as rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater, during its ongoing evaluation (known as a “fitness check”).
The online campaign, called #ProtectWater, is led by WWF, the European Environmental Bureau, European Anglers Alliance, European Rivers Network and Wetlands International, who together form the Living Rivers Europe coalition.
The campaign uses provocative scenarios and imagery around the future of beer to encourage citizens in Europe and beyond to participate in the European Commission’s public consultation on the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), which is running until 4 March 2019. This consultation is the only opportunity for the general public to have its say during the evaluation of the law, and the campaign provides an easy tool for citizens to express their support to keep this law strong and effective.
Whilst the scenarios painted in the campaign might seem extreme, beer companies are indeed worried about the future quality of water in Europe, and have issued a joint statement, signed by individual breweries, including Csupor, Pivovarna Trot, and Ground Zero, as well as the Romanian Craft Brewers' Association and Slovakia’s Association of Small Independent Breweries. All of these companies recognise that their ability to produce good quality beer relies on the protection and sustainable management of Europe’s water sources, and therefore support the WFD in its current form.
Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at WWF’s European Policy Office said: “Member States’ half-hearted implementation of the EU water law is a crime in itself, but their desperate attempts to weaken it - and before the Commission’s fitness check has even concluded - is a step too far. We urge citizens across Europe and beyond to join forces through the #ProtectWater campaign and make their voices heard. We all need clean water, and without the WFD, this will be under serious threat. Act now to defend the EU water law!”
Freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened on the planet [1] and the situation is no different in Europe. 60% of EU waters are not healthy today [2] because Member States have allowed them to be exploited in ways that cause permanent harm, such as through dams, the construction of other destructive infrastructure, and unsustainable agriculture. Through the WFD, Member States agreed to put a stop to this and achieve “good status” for their waters by 2027 at the very latest (the original 2015 deadline was missed by a long shot). 2027 is also the year which the #ProtectWater campaign playfully poses as the fictional ‘expiration date’ for good beer.
Where political will exists, the WFD provides an effective framework for addressing the main pressures facing our waters [3], but Member States need to significantly step up their efforts and funding if the 2027 deadlines are to be achieved. Results to improve the health of their waters have been few and far between, and Member States are now discussing how the law can be weakened to introduce greater flexibility for themselves.
Mark Owen of the European Anglers Alliance said: “Europe’s rivers and lakes are dying under our eyes and, through the beer imagery, we want to open citizens’ eyes to their unacceptable deterioration and compel them to take action. Only a bad workman blames his tools. There is no doubt that the WFD is the right tool to protect and restore Europe’s waters, and that Member States are the clear culprits: for the best part of two decades, they have relentlessly dodged their commitments and avoided effective delivery on the legally binding objectives.”

More information about the #ProtectWater campaign is available at:

Sophie Bauer, Communications Officer (Freshwater), WWF European Policy Office   
+32 471 05 25 11

Notes to the editors: 
[1] Living Planet Report, WWF, 2016
[2] European waters: Assessment of status and pressures 2018, EEA, 2018
[3] Bringing life back to Europe’s waters: The EU water law in action, WWF, EEB, European Anglers Alliance, European Rivers Network, 2018

> About the #ProtectWater campaign
  • The goal of #ProtectWater simple: to defend the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) and in doing so, protect Europe’s rivers, lakes, groundwater and wetlands, and the wildlife they house, for generations to come.
  • The campaign is led by Living Rivers Europe (WWF’s European network, the European Anglers Alliance, European Environmental Bureau, European Rivers Network, and Wetlands International), who together represent a movement of over 40 million people across Europe.
  • 100 NGOs are currently supporting the campaign, including BirdLife and Friends of the Earth. 
  • The campaign allows anyone to easily take part in the European Commission’s public consultation on the evaluation of EU water policy, which includes the WFD. Living Rivers Europe believes that only a loud call from citizens to keep the WFD strong will ensure that this law, and the rivers, lakes and wetlands that depend on it, are protected. By filling in the e-action’s form (available on as well as individual organisations’ websites), individuals can quickly and easily send the suggested response to the public consultation to the European Commission on their behalf.
  • The European Commission launched its online consultation on the EU Water Framework Directive on 17 September 2018 - but only in English. Due to the delay in making the questions available in all official languages (and thus to all EU citizens), we decided to start our public engagement campaign by answering only one question and to translate this answer into all languages. With this answer, however, we address all the main aspects of the WFD review, indicating why we believe the law is fit for purpose and should be maintained. 
For more information, please visit
>About the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Living Rivers Europe coalition:
  • The WFD is one of the EU’s most progressive pieces of environmental legislation. It requires the protection, enhancement and restoration of our rivers, wetlands, lakes and coastal waters, but Member States are currently failing make it work on the ground. 
  • Under the WFD, EU governments have committed to ensure no deterioration and achieve good status for the vast majority of all water bodies by 2015, and at the very latest by 2027. 
  • Where implemented, the WFD has proved to be effective in achieving its goals of good water status and non-deterioration, successfully balancing environmental, social and economic requirements. 
  • The WFD is currently undergoing its standard review in the form of a ‘fitness check’. Every piece of EU legislation goes through this process. The fitness check will look at the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value of the WFD (and its 'daughter’ directives) and the Floods Directive. It includes the ongoing stakeholder consultation and public consultation.
  • As the Living Rivers Europe coalition, we are working on safeguarding the EU WFD and strengthening its implementation and enforcement. 
Key visual for #ProtectWater, square.
The #ProtectWater campaign is led by WWF, EEB, the European Anglers Alliance, European Rivers Network and Wetlands International, who together form the Living Rivers Europe coalition.
© Living Rivers Europe