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The EU Water Framework Directive: From great expectations to problems with implementation

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Title: The EU Water Framework Directive: From great expectations to problems with implementation
Authors: Voulvoulis, N
Arpon, KD
Giakoumis, T
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: The Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD) is widely accepted as the most substantial and ambitious piece of European environmental legislation to date. It has been referred to as a once in a generation opportunity to restore Europe's waters and a potential template for future environmental regulations. However, fifteen years since it was adopted, and with many problems and delays in its implementation, the WFD has not delivered its main objectives of non-deterioration of water status and the achievement of good status for all EU waters. Putting aside the daunting technical and organisational challenges of its implementation, this paper aims to shed light on why the great expectations that came with the WFD have not yet been fully realised. It reviews how the Directive has been interpreted, focusing on its intentions and how they were applied. The findings reveal the absence of the paradigm shift towards the systems (integrated) thinking that the WFD was grounded on, as a fundamental problem with its implementation. This is also evident in cases where the Directive has been criticised as a policy tool or when implementation efforts were reviewed, indicating misunderstandings even of its core principles. This inherent departure from the Directive's systemic intention and methodological approach needs further investigation, as it could be the reason behind many of its problems and delays. Unless current implementation efforts are reviewed or revised in light of this, enabling the paradigm shift required to ensure a more sustainable and holistic approach to water management, the fading aspirations of the initial great expectations that came with the Directive could disappear for good.
Issue Date: 1-Jan-2017
Date of Acceptance: 29-Sep-2016
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/42413
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.09.228
ISSN: 0048-9697
Publisher: Elsevier
Start Page: 358
End Page: 366
Journal / Book Title: Science of the Total Environment
Volume: 575
Issue: 1
Copyright Statement: This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Keywords: Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Environmental Sciences
Environmental Sciences & Ecology
Systems thinking
Catchment management
Ecological status
Programme of Measures
Catchment management
Ecological status
Programme of Measures
Systems thinking
Environmental Sciences
Publication Status: Published
Open Access location: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971632157X
Online Publication Date: 2016-10-13
Appears in Collections:Centre for Environmental Policy
Faculty of Natural Sciences