That water is a fundamental prerequisite for life on this planet is well known. According to the centrepiece of EU water law water is not ‘a commercial product like any other but, rather, a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such’.1 At the same time, water resources are subject to considerable pressures. The most widespread pressures on fresh water are diffuse pollution, physical modifications of water ecosystems, and, particularly in Southern Europe, overexploitation of water.2

  • 1 Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy [2000] OJ L 327/1.
  • 2 Communication from the Commission—Towards sustainable water management in the European Union—First stage in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (22 March 2007) COM(2007) 128/Final, 5.

EU Environmental Law and Policy. David Langlet and Said Mahmoudi. © David Langlet and Said Mahmoudi 2016. Published 2016 by Oxford University Press.

The water environment is subject to rather extensive EU regulation and has been so for some time.[1] But it was first in 2000, through the adoption of a framework directive on water, that the EU took a comprehensive and cohesive approach covering qualitative as well as quantitative aspects of management and protection of inland and coastal waters. In 2008 another framework directive was adopted to address marine water resources in a similar way.

Since polluting substances of various kinds have a tendency to eventually reach and affect water bodies, a large number of other EU legal acts are also relevant to the protection of water. That goes, inter alia, for waste and chemicals legislation, as well as for rules affecting air emissions. While these other acts are dealt with in other parts of the book, this chapter is dedicated to EU legal acts focusing specifically on protection and management of water.

There is a considerable body of EU law dealing with various environmental and safety aspects of maritime transport. This legislation is dealt with briefly so as to provide an overview, while the main focuses of this chapter are the framework directives on fresh water and coastal waters and on maritime waters, respectively.

  • [1] For an overview of the historical development of EU water protection policy, see L Kramer EUEnvironmental Law (7th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, 2012) 251—3.
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