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Water Services

In considering how the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive 2000/60 ('WFD') makes some provisions that are relevant to water services (including the protected area status of drinking water sources within the territory of the EU), it is necessary to consider how it works along with Directive 1998/83 on Drinking Water Quality and Directive 1991/271/EC on Urban Waste Water Treatment in the context of the WFD. Therefore, this essay will look to review these two Directives' requirements to identify any difficulties in their implementation within the context of the requirements of the remit of the WFD. Moreover, as someone from a non-EU member state, this essay also considers whether the rules discussed regarding Directives 1998/83 and 1991/271 in the context of the WFD could be used as reference tools for developing water services in non-EU member states. Finally, this essay will conclude with a summary of the key points derived from this discussion in relation to the two Directives regarding water services in the context of the WFD and how they could be used as reference tools for water services in non-EU member states.

Water's value within the EU was emphasised when the European Commission recognised in 2002 that 20% of all surface water in the EU is seriously endangered by pollution, ground waters supply around 65% of all of the EU's drinking water, 60% of all cities in the EU over-exploit their groundwater resources, 50% of EU wetlands have 'endangered status' due to their groundwater being over-exploitation and that the area of irrigated land in Southern EU has increased by 20% since 1985 (European Commission, 2002). Therefore, in looking to enhance the development of water services within the EU and safeguard water quality the enactment of Directive 1991/271 on Urban Waste Water Treatment (as amended by Directive 1998/15) was meant to specifically reduce nutrient output from industrial and municipal sources and improve the quality of drinking water in the EU. This is because the Directive was largely concerned the "collection, treatment and discharge of urban waste water and the treatment and discharge of waste water from certain industrial sectors" with its main objective being "to protect the environment from the adverse effects of urban waste water discharges and discharges from certain industrial sectors". Moreover, Directive 1991/271 ostensibly requires the collection and treatment of waste water in what are referred to as 'agglomerations' with a population of over 2000 and more advanced treatment where there are populations with 'agglomerations' greater than 10,000 in sensitive areas under Articles 3 to 5 (Weale, et al, 2000, p.363).

By way of illustration, the WFD has a significantly broader scope in view of the fact that it covers the standards of freshwater and groundwater, whilst the Clean Water Act 1972 is more focussed on navigable waters (although Congress may revisit the issue due to the limitations of the Supreme Court's ruling in Rapanos v. US (2006) 547 US 715 that sought to challenge the Clean Water Act 1972. The enactment of the WFD within the EU also served to make provisions for diffuse pollution, whilst the Clean Water Act 1972 focuses almost exclusively on point source pollution and, whereas the WFD requires planning at watershed level and cost-recovery of water services, this is hardly demanded by American water services (Mukhtarov, 2009). This is largely because, the WFD is founded upon the '3Es' of Integrated Water Resources Management - (a) economic (cost-recovery principle); (b) environmental (no further degradation); and (c) ethical (public information and involvement) (Kidd & Shaw, 2007). Therefore, using, wherever appropriate, the policy principles and the tools that have already been developed under the remit of the WFD in association with Directives 1991/271 and 1998/83 on Drinking Water Quality could facilitate the development of sound water management practices in non-EU countries for sustainable drinking water and sanitation projects in a way other countries like the US have lost sight of in the development of their water policies (Euro-Mediterranean Information System on Know-How in the Water Sector, 2005).

To conclude, it is clear some of the key principles in Directives 1991/271 and 1998/83 have come to be looked at in the context of the WFD for their combined value in view of the fact that they offered significant value to the EU and its individual member states as combined legislation. This is because the Directives are somewhat flawed individually since source controls do not account for the cumulative toxic effects of contaminants where there are a number of sources of pollution, whilst the diffuse impacts cannot be estimated since quality standards applied to water bodies can underestimate the effects of particular substances on ecosystems due to a lack of scientific knowledge leading to a water body's gradual degradation. In effect, as this discussion has already alluded to, the WFD has looked to take steps to cover many of the problems and challenges with application and implementation that were recognised under the aforementioned two Directives with a view to improving water services and, in so doing, also enhancing the level of water quality across the EU. Therefore, in view of the broad nature of the WFD and its recognition as one of the most thorough pieces of legislation enacted and implemented in relation to water services and water quality, it is perhaps little wonder that other non-EU countries have looked to the WFD as a reference tool. This is because, as was alluded to regarding the position in the US, whilst  (for example) the law in the US was somewhat similar to the WFD there were also some significant differences to be rectified in the future in view of the WFD's significant provision for enhanced water quality for sustainable drinking water and sanitation projects in a way other countries like the US have lost sight of in the development of their water policies (Euro-Mediterranean Information System on Know-How in the Water Sector, 2005).

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