4 Cross-cutting issues for European key water management challenges

4.1       Introduction

Section 3 of this report presented selected European key water management challenges which put European water bodies most at risk of achieving the WFD environmental objectives. The drivers and pressures of these challenges have been described and their key impacts outlined on water ecosystems. Also, a summary of key measures was presented, which are available to tackle the issues and of management challenges of EU-wide relevance. A broad range of technical and management measures are already available, while details will be provided on specific measures required in the third WFD planning cycle. The third river basin management plans (RBMPs) are expected to include measures and actions, whose implementation is continued from previous planning cycles as well as new required measures.

By 2015, when the second RBMPs were published, only some measures were completed of the first Programmes of Measures (PoM) in the river basin districts. The lack of public personnel and finance as well as unexpected long planning time were identified as main obstacles to the implementation, along with missing mechanisms for implementing measures (e.g. national regulations not yet adopted) and governance issues (EC, 2019).

In 2021, the European Commission will provide an overview of progress on implementing measures of the second Programme of Measures. The Fitness Check Evaluation of the WFD and the Floods Directive (EC, 2019)[1] though already indicated that the main reasons, that the WFD objectives have not been fully reached yet is due to insufficient funding, slow implementation and insufficient integration of environmental objectives in sectoral policies including gaps in EU water legislation. Similarly, the evaluation of the UWWTD concluded that the UWWTD is overall fit for purpose although there is room to enhance its positive effects and to step up implementation in a number of Member States. However, the UWWTD does not adequately deal with emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and microplastics (EC, 2019).[2]

[1] EC, 2019, Fitness check of the Water Framework Directive and Floods Directive, https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/fitness_check_of_the_eu_water_legislation/documents/Water%20Fitness%20Check%20-%20SWD(2019)439%20-%20web.pdf

[2] EC, 2019, Evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-urbanwaste/pdf/UWWTD%20Evaluation%20SWD%20448-701%20web.pdf

It is thus expected that the measures required to tackle the European key water management challenges presented in this report can be mobilised through better implementation of the existing legislative framework on water (basic measures under WFD) and the introduction of supplementary measures that further reduce key pressures.

At the same time, the summaries of measures and management responses to several European key water management challenges indicate that the following are cross-cutting issues of EU-wide relevance to measures implementation:

  • The need for more harmonization of the objectives and management responses of different directives and strategies, which set the EU policy context for taking actions and measures
  • The need to coordinate sectoral developments with river basin management planning under the WFD
  • The funding of measures

These cross-cutting issues are discussed in this chapter, with emphasis on:

  • Their role in improving and accelerating the implementation of measures to achieve WFD objectives, and
  • The identification of actions and coordination requirements for the EU-wide level.

In short, in this chapter, it is argued that the implementation of measures to tackle European key water management challenges can be further enhanced and accelerated via better coordination of different EU strategies and environmental policies, especially in terms of their management responses to reduce pressures in the water environment. Also, water policy objectives need to be better integrated into other EU policy areas and strategies which deal with the sustainable growth of different sectors such as agriculture, energy, and transport. In addition, the funding of measures can be optimised e.g. via water-mainstreaming of sectoral funding and by mobilising funding beyond EU and other public funds. Finally, the potentially crucial role of measures which deliver multiple benefits across different policy objectives is discussed.

The cross-cutting issues discussed in this chapter are outlined in Figure 16.

Figure 16           Cross-cutting issues for European key water management challenges

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