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Good-quality water in Europe (EU water directive)



Directive 2000/60/EC — framework for Community action in the field of water policy


It sets out rules to halt deterioration in the status of European Union (EU) water bodies and achieve ‘good status’ for Europe’s rivers, lakes and groundwater by 2015.

Specifically, this includes:

  • protecting all forms of water (surface*, ground*, inland* and transitional*);
  • restoring the ecosystems in and around these bodies of water;
  • reducing pollution in water bodies;
  • guaranteeing sustainable water usage by individuals and businesses.


The legislation places clear responsibilities on national authorities. They have to:

  • identify the individual river basins on their territory — that is, the surrounding land areas that drain into particular river systems;
  • designate authorities to manage these basins in line with the EU’s rules;
  • analyse the features of each river basin and set reference conditions for each type of water body to qualify their status;
  • analyse the impact of human activity and an economic assessment of water use;
  • monitor the status of the water in each basin;
  • register protected areas, such as those used for drinking water, which require special attention;
  • produce and implement ‘river basin management plans’ to prevent the deterioration of surface water, protect and enhance groundwater and preserve protected areas;
  • ensure the cost of water services is recovered so that the resources are used efficiently and polluters pay;
  • provide public information and consultation on their river basin management plans.


It has applied since 22 October 2000 and had to become law in the EU Member States by 22 December 2003.


In the EU, water is coming under increasing pressure from the continuous growth in demand for sufficient quantities of good-quality water for a whole range of uses. This directive seeks to protect and improve the quality of water.

For more information, see:


Surface water: All inland water except groundwater, transitional or coastal waters.
Groundwater: All water below the surface of the ground.
Inland water: All standing or flowing water on the land’s surface.
Transitional waters: Waters near river mouths, which are partly saline but contain substantial flows of freshwater.


Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, pp. 1–73).

Successive amendments to Directive 2000/60/EC have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Directive 2006/118/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on the protection of groundwater against pollution and deterioration (OJ L 372, 27.12.2006, pp. 19–31).

See consolidated version.

Directive 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on the assessment and management of flood risks (OJ L 288, 6.11.2007, pp. 27–34).

Directive 2008/105/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy, amending and subsequently repealing Council Directives 82/176/EEC, 83/513/EEC, 84/156/EEC, 84/491/EEC, 86/280/EEC and amending Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 348, 24.12.2008, pp. 84–97).

See consolidated version.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — A blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water resources (COM(2012) 673 final, 14.11.2012).

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council — The Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive: actions towards the ‘good status’ of EU water and to reduce flood risks (COM(2015) 120 final, 9.3.2015).

last update 09.09.2021