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Implementing the EU Water Framework Directive

The implementation of the Water Framework Directive raises a number of shared technical challenges for the Member States, the Commission, the Candidate and EEA Countries as well as stakeholders and NGOs. In addition, many of the European river basins are international, crossing administrative and territorial borders and therefore a common understanding and approach is crucial to the successful and effective implementation of the Directive. 

In order to address the challenges in a cooperative and coordinated way, the Member States, Norway and the Commission agreed on a Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) for the Water Framework Directive only five months after the entry into force of the Directive.

More details on the overall concept, the numerous activities and the mandates of the Working Groups under the Common Implementation Strategy can be found on the europa website.

In the first phase of the joint process, a number of guidance documents were prepared. Currently, these documents are being tested in pilot river basins across Europe. In addition, four Working Groups (Ecological Status, Integrated River Basin Management, Groundwater and Reporting) are addressing key issues for implementation. 

The common strategy also supports the Commission in delivering on its obligations for further policy development (Daughter Directives on groundwater and on priority substances). 

What is the Common Implementation Strategy?

The Common Implementation Strategy for the Water Framework Directive (known as the CIS) was agreed by the European Commission, Member States and Norway in May 2001. Although implementing the Directive remains the responsibility of individual Member States, a common strategy is necessary to:
  • develop a common understanding of approaches
  • elaborate informal technical guidance including best practice examples
  • share experiences and resources
  • avoid duplication of efforts
  • limit the risk of bad application

Experts from the above countries and candidate countries as well as stakeholders and non-governmental organisations are all involved in the CIS process to carry out the following activities:

  1. raise awareness and exchange information
  2. develop guidance documents on various technical issues
  3. carry out integrated testing in pilot river basins
  4. develop a European information management system.

A series of working groups help carry out these objective. A Strategic Coordination Group (or SCG) oversees these working groups and reports directly to the Water Directors of the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, the Candidate Countries and Commission.

More information about the Common Implementation Strategy and related EU funded research projects can be found on the Europa website.


Aims of the CIS

The aim of the Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) is to allow, as far as possible, the coherent implementation of the Water Framework Directive, whilst focusing on methodological questions relating to achieving a common understanding of the technical and scientific implications of the Directive.  Guidance documents, recommendations for operational methods and other supporting information may be developed, but the implementation of the Directive will be the responsibility of the Member State. As such, these documents are informal and non-legally binding in character, but should limit any risks associated with the application of the Directive.

The strategy has been divided into four main modules or key activities:

  • Activity 1: Information sharing
  • Activity 2: Developing guidance on technical issues
  • Activity 3: Information and data management
  • Activity 4: Application, testing and validation.

Fora each of the identified activities, working groups and Expert Advisory Fora have been established. To date, more than 15 European expert and working groups are involved in producing guidance documents to assist in WFD transposition and implementation processes. Generally, a lead country or the Commission will chair the working groups, with participants from interested Member States, Candidate Countries, stakeholders and NGOs. 

A common process of implementation :
Schedule - process

The WFD leans on confirmed or reinforced principles
  • Management by hydrographic districts
  • Planification on the horizon 2015
  • Protection of aquatic ecosystems and terrestrian ecosystems which depends directly on:
  • Economical analysis
  • Public participation

PDF Carrying Forward the CIS for the WFD Download
PDF Common Strategy on the Implementation of the WFD Download
5th Mediterranean Water Forum