Water management: Commission consultation launched

In late July 2021, the European Commission launched an online public consultation seeking views on the impending initiative to review the lists of pollutants occurring in surface and ground waters, alongside associated regulatory standards. The consultation will run until 1 November 2021.

The public consultation is particularly significant in the context of implementing the European Green Deal’s Zero Pollution Action Plan and broader efforts to increase efficiency and safer use of water.

A December 2019 evaluation of EU water legislation determined it to be “broadly fit for purpose”. However, it identifies investment, implementation, the integration of water objectives into other policies, chemical pollution, administrative simplification and digitalisation as areas requiring improvement.

Specifically, therefore, the upcoming initiative seeks to address the inadequacies relating to chemical pollution and fulfil the legal obligation to regularly review the list of pollutants. Simultaneously, it will consider the acceleration of implementation, including through the use of digital tools, while supporting EU member states in overcoming polluting substances challenges which are inhibiting compliance with legal obligations and realisation of environmental objectives.

The initiative is also intended to align with the implementation of the EU Strategic Approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment, while supplementing parallel reviews to improve the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and the Industrial Emissions Directive, alongside the implementation of the new Drinking Water Directive.

Running in six-year cycles from 2000 onwards, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) has acted as the primary legal instrument for the protection of European water. Its objective is to clean polluted waters and maintain the cleanliness of clean waters. In Ireland, it is given legal effect through the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003.

In conjunction with the Environmental Quality Standards Directive (EQSD) and the Groundwater Directive (GWD), the WFD applies to fresh, coastal, and transitional waters, as well as ground waters. Through the regulation of specific pollutants and the establishment of corresponding regulations, the Directive ensures an integrated approach to water management.

“All Europeans should benefit from clean water. Ensuring good quality of surface and groundwater in Europe is paramount for human health and for the environment. Pollution caused by pesticides, PFAS or from residues of pharmaceuticals must be avoided as much as possible. We want to hear your views on how this can best be achieved,” asserts Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius.

With the Commission’s adoption of proposals planned for Q3 2022, the public consultation is aimed at respondents with a general level of knowledge and interest in pollutants in water and is intended to complement an expert consultation, workshops with stakeholders and consultation via the mechanisms of the Common Implementation Strategy (which supports the Water Framework Directive implementation).

It is possible to contribute to the consultation via a questionnaire: https://bit.ly/2WjAwFd

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