Use of New Technologies and Cost of Water in View of the New EU Water Directive

01-02-2000

EU water policy is at a critical crossroad. Following more than two decades of environmental water policy a new framework directive is being discussed in the EU institutions that will shape both the Commission’s and national efforts in the field of water for years to come. Past EU water directives have had momentous effects in transforming organisations/institutions and approaches in Member States and promoting technological progress in pollution control. Europe’s water bodies, however, steadily deteriorate mainly due to pollution from diffuse sources. The long-term sustainability of water uses for human and environmental purposes is threatened. The new EU water framework directive aims to integrate action for water management both at an EU – legislation - level and at a national level, by asking for the establishment of river basin authorities and plans. The general objective is to achieve within a set time an acceptable environmental quality for all waters within the Union’s territory. The costs entailed are high and difficult to estimate in advance given the lack of adequate monitoring. These costs come in an era when improvements in drinking and waste water treatment capacities are increasingly reflected in water prices. The study reviews the implementation of past EU water policy and raises the challenges for EU water policy in the 21st century. The proposal for a framework directive on water is critically discussed and its strengths and weaknesses are identified. The problems with calculating the costs and benefits of EU water policy are highlighted and empirical evidence from national information and two case studies in the U.K are used to give an indication of the magnitude of the costs. The effects on water prices are subsequently analysed. The issue of integrating quantitative and qualitative aspects in EU water policy is raised and it is demonstrated that the directive fails to recognise the emerging importance of water conservation approach

EU water policy is at a critical crossroad. Following more than two decades of environmental water policy a new framework directive is being discussed in the EU institutions that will shape both the Commission’s and national efforts in the field of water for years to come. Past EU water directives have had momentous effects in transforming organisations/institutions and approaches in Member States and promoting technological progress in pollution control. Europe’s water bodies, however, steadily deteriorate mainly due to pollution from diffuse sources. The long-term sustainability of water uses for human and environmental purposes is threatened. The new EU water framework directive aims to integrate action for water management both at an EU – legislation - level and at a national level, by asking for the establishment of river basin authorities and plans. The general objective is to achieve within a set time an acceptable environmental quality for all waters within the Union’s territory. The costs entailed are high and difficult to estimate in advance given the lack of adequate monitoring. These costs come in an era when improvements in drinking and waste water treatment capacities are increasingly reflected in water prices. The study reviews the implementation of past EU water policy and raises the challenges for EU water policy in the 21st century. The proposal for a framework directive on water is critically discussed and its strengths and weaknesses are identified. The problems with calculating the costs and benefits of EU water policy are highlighted and empirical evidence from national information and two case studies in the U.K are used to give an indication of the magnitude of the costs. The effects on water prices are subsequently analysed. The issue of integrating quantitative and qualitative aspects in EU water policy is raised and it is demonstrated that the directive fails to recognise the emerging importance of water conservation approach

External author

George Kallis (ERN, Athens)