Parliament demands that EU water legislation be respected 

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  • Access to water is not a commodity but a human right 
  • 50 % reduction of pesticide use by 2030 
  • Half of the bodies of water in the EU are still not in a good state 

EU legislation on water must be correctly implemented and all surface and ground waters must be in good condition by 2027.

Parliament Thursday adopted a resolution on the implementation of EU water legislation with 622 votes to 23 and 43 abstentions.


While MEPs agree with the Commission’s assessment that the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is an adequate governance framework for managing water and no revision is needed, they strongly regret that half of the bodies of water in the EU are still not in good condition and that the objectives of the WFD have not yet been reached. This is mainly due to inadequate funding, particularly slow implementation, and insufficient enforcement. The precautionary and polluter-pays principles are not being implemented properly, and many member states are using exemptions too broadly, they say.


The resolution underlines that the WFD objectives need to be better integrated into sectoral policies, particularly in agriculture, transport and energy in order to be fully compliant with the WFD and for all surface and ground waters to achieve ‘good status’ by 2027 at the latest. Additional action regarding chemicals and pollutants, water pricing policies, hydropower and urban wastewater treatment is needed, the MEPs say.


Access to water is a human right


The resolution recalls that the UN recognises access to water and sanitation as a human right. It rejects any attempt to treat water as a commodity i.e. the trading of water futures on the stock exchange as it denies the universal right to water.


50 % reduction of pesticide use by 2030


The resolution highlights the urgent need to reduce the impact of pesticides on drinking water and welcomes the targets for reducing the use and risks of pesticides by 50 % by 2030 and for reducing the loss of nutrients from fertilisers, as established in the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies. MEPs also call for such targets to be integrated and implemented in the national Strategic Plans under the EU’s farm policy.


On Tuesday, Parliament also adopted the deal to improve the quality of tap water. You can watch the joint debate on both water files here.


Background


The Fitness Check of EU water legislation in December 2019 concluded that the legislation is adequate but that there is room for improvement related to investments, implementation, integrating water into other policies, chemical pollution, administrative simplification and digitalisation.


While the Water Framework Directive established a framework to protect 110.000 bodies of surface water in the EU, the implementation has been lacking. Less than half of the EU’s bodies of water are in good status, even though the deadline for achieving this was 2015.