Revising the standards for surface water and groundwater pollutants

Briefing 22-03-2023

The impact assessment is informed by the findings of the European Commission's fitness check of the water directives, in line with the Better Regulation Guidelines' 'evaluate first' principle. The IA's strong points include a dynamic baseline that takes into account the likely changes to emissions, the current and proposed legislation, and external factors. The IA proposed a satisfactory range of options and was transparent in reporting the limitations of assessing the costs and benefits, which depend on the current status of pollution and the potential measures that might be taken at Member State-level to reach a given water quality standard. However, because of these limitations and the policy options' technical complexity, neither the real policy alternatives nor their impacts are apparent from the IA. This limits the report's potential to inform decision-making adequately. Moreover, although increasing the protection of EU citizens and natural ecosystems is the IA's first general objective, the impacts on consumers and SMEs are not elaborated on. Furthermore, the IA does not fully substantiate the achievement of the second general objective of increasing the legislation's effectiveness and reducing administrative burden. Lastly, the IA could have benefited from reporting the results of the stakeholder consultation in a more detailed manner, enlarging its scope to cover SMEs, and breaking down the stakeholders' views.