Water Framework Directive

© Francisco Javier Domínguez García, WaterPIX EEA


The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) requires EU Member States to achieve good status in all bodies of surface water and groundwater by 2027. Good status is comprised of four assessments:

> Ecological status of surface waters

> Chemical status of surface waters

> Chemical status of groundwaters

> Quantitative status of groundwaters

In 2022, the Commission will come forward with a new legislative proposal on integrated water management, focused on regulating polluting substances , as part of the European Green Deal, in the context of these Directives.

Achieving good status involves meeting certain standards for the ecology, chemistry and quantity of waters. The Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EC) and Environmental Quality Standards Directive (2008/105/EC), both set additional groundwater and priority substance standards relevant for assessments of the Water Framework Directive.


Assessment of status of surface waters and groundwater according to the WFD

Source: European waters. Assessment of status and pressures 2018. EEA Report No 7/2018

Monitoring and reporting under the WFD

The Water Framework Directive requires reporting of river basin management plans, every six years. The last round took place in 2016, the next round of reporting comes up in 2022. Each river basin management plan covers one of the 180 river basins, and includes the assessment of its water bodies, their pressures as well as relevant plans towards achieving good status. Surface waters includes rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters. The Water Framework Directive is being implemented by the EU and Norway. In the EU and Norway, more than 146 500 surface waterbodies and 15 000 groundwater bodies are covered by assessments under the Water Framework Directive.

To know more about surface and groundwater bodies, visit the Data visualisation tools section, in particular:
> The dashboards and maps of Delineation of surface water bodies
> The dashboards and maps of Delineation of groundwater bodies

Or the specific dashboards:
> Surface water bodies: Number and size, by category
> Groundwater bodies: Number and size, by geological formation [table]

Assessment methodology of the WFD

Good status is comprised of four assessments: ecological and chemical status of surface waters, and chemical and quantitative status of groundwater.

Ecological status of surface waters assesses overall ecosystem health as expressed by biological quality elements — phytoplankton, macrophytes, phytobenthos, benthic invertebrate fauna and fish, and if good status is not achieved, assessments are further supported by assessments of hydromorphology and the physico-chemical parameters: nutrients, oxygen condition, temperature, transparency, salinity and river basin-specific pollutants. The ecological status assessments comprise assessments of a number of different parameters. Achieving good status implies that all parameter must be in at least good status. This is also referred to as the oe out all out principle.

Chemical status of surface water is assessed against standards for priority substances listed in the Environmetal Quality Standards Directive. These standards are set to protect the most sensitive aquatic species, as well as humans who in return can be affected by  secondary poisoning.

Good groundwater chemical status is achieved when concentrations of specified substances do not exceed those permitted by relevant standards and when concentrations do not prevent associated surface water bodies from achieving good status or cause significant damage to terrestrial ecosystems that depend directly on the groundwater in question

Good groundwater quantitative status is achieved by ensuring that the available groundwater resource is not deteriorated by the long-term annual average rate of abstraction. Accordingly, the level of groundwater should not lead to any reduction in the ecological status of connected surface waters or in groundwater-dependent terrestrial ecosystems. Furthermore, reversals in the direction of flow should not result in saline (or other) intrusions.

Other European Information Systems: