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In the Wake of World Water Day, EU Commission Reflects on Progress Made

Mar 26th, 2015 |

On the 24th and 25th of March the European Commission hosted the 4th EU Water Conference in Brussels, Belgium. The event marked an opportunity for reflecting on progress made in addressing water management, specifically towards achieving the goals of the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive. Representatives from member states, EU institutions, environmental organizations and were welcomed by Commissioner Vella and received a clear message for the Commission’s continued support of the objectives of the Water Framework Directive as the instrument to reach water quality objectives throughout EU member states.

Although there have been considerable achievements in enhancing transboundary collaboration on water management and improving dialogue between member states, the public and the Commission, it was clear that there was still considerable work which needed to be done.  While the EU Commission will refocus its activities on enforcing legislation, member states will have a second opportunity to elaborate improved Program of Measures in the second round of River Basin Management Plans.

Although no new legislation will be on the table, conference participants repeatedly heard the need for integration of water issues into other management topics. In this sense, integration in some cases would require more precise legislation, such as in the CAP. Integration was also the subject of concerns that resources for successful efforts and infrastructure to improve protection of scarce resources were limited. In this regards, multiple speakers shared their support for collaboration between private and public sectors and sharing costs across planning levels in order to meet WFD targets. H2020 and Rural Development funding were repeatedly touched upon as opportunities for member states to tap into additional resources.

The topic of Blue & Green Growth and in particular a proposal for a new Circular Economy package was also highlighted at the event. Panellists broadly seemed to agree that good water management is a condition for economic growth. In many cases investment in risk mitigation has been proven to be directly linked to water availability and investments into water systems have significant long-term payoffs. Overall the conference demonstrated a rich understanding of the water policy context as well as the available tools which can be used to improve water management.

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