WIT Press

From A Common Concept To Common Experimentation? The Water Framework Directive’s Impact On Water Management In Europe


Free (open access)





Page Range

673 - 682




194 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


P. Canelas de Castro


There is no doubt that the European Union has a water policy. This policy, stemming from the early 1970s, stands as a forerunner of its environmental policies. It translated into an impressive number of legal documents, leading most commentators to speak of several waves of European legislation. Prior to the adoption of the Water Framework Directive in 2000, this policy had several shortcomings which hindered its successful implementation and the reversal of the bad quality of European water. Europeans even elected the pollution of water as their most serious environmental concern. The Water Framework Directive promises to break up with this poor record by introducing new solutions to old problems. These amount to a paradigm shift in the conception of water management and its actual implementation. In our article we propose to analyze the main pillars of this new conceptual construction of European water management, looking in particular at key solutions such as the election of the river basin as the geographical reference of the regime, the setting of innovatory goals, such as those of good water status and environmental objectives presiding over both the qualitative and quantitative dimensions of water management, the resorting to management plans and programmes of measures to discipline the actions seeking good water status, the combined approach as the new method to handle pollution control, the opening to very wide public participation in water management. We shall equally endeavour to assess the practical relevance of these solutions for a new water management in Europe. Moreover, we shall seek to characterize the efforts at ensuring a common implementation of this normative programme, aimed at giving the European citizens waters of satisfying


common implementation strategy, cost recovery, economic incentives, European community, European union, experimentation, experimental governance, good water status, integrated river basin management, new governance, paradigm-shifts