Over the past three decades, several pieces of EU legislation and international agreements have addressed the pollution of aquatic ecosystems.
These include the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC), the Nitrates Directive (Directive 91/676/EEC) and IPPC Directive (96/61/EC), the Bathing Waters Directive (76/160/EEC & 2006/7/EC), and, more recently, the Water Framework Directive (WFD; 2000/60/EC).
The WFD requires all inland, transitional and coastal waters to reach good ecological and chemical status by 2015. Based on a review at river basin scale, all pollutants and their associated anthropogenic activities must be addressed to ensure that good status is attained and maintained. The WFD also requires the phasing out or substantial reductions in the discharge of hazardous substances to water bodies.
The adoption of the Water Framework Directive has triggered a renewed debate on how the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy can contribute to achieving the goal of “good status” for all water bodies. Over the past decade, a shift of the policy from a strictly production-oriented system towards a tool to support sustainable development has occurred (see - Agenda 2000). Thus, the first steps towards developing agri-environmental measures targeted especially at nutrient losses have been implemented.
In addition to this European legislation, various conventions seek to reduce pollution. For example, the Paris Convention and the Helsinki Convention include objectives to prevent marine pollution from land-based sources in the North Sea and Baltic Sea areas, respectively. The Convention on Protection of the Mediterranean Sea (MEDPOL) and the Strategic Action Plan for the Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea both share similar goals. OSPAR, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic has two key strategies relating to hazardous substances and eutrophication, respectively. Transboundary river conventions also have activities on reducing the pollution inputs.
See also more detailed information on the different pieces of water legislation (and related policies) in the European Community
See also Nitrate Directive and Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive:
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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