D5.3 Report on the Quality Check of the Robustness of Narratives behind the Water Framework Directive

31 January 2019
Water Framework Directive
Segura basin
Meuse river basin
Maarten Krol

Krol MS (2019), Report on the Quality Check of the Robustness of Narratives behind the Water Framework Directive. MAGIC (H2020–GA 689669) Project Deliverable 5.3, 29 January 2019.


From a MAGIC perspective, the focus of the Water Framework Directive can be seen as management of the anthroposphere to become compatible with the water systems in the ecosphere: it defines allowable impacts that the anthroposphere may have on water systems, and on policies to manage the anthroposphere to respect these limits of acceptable deviation.

Where the highest pressures on water resources emerge from agricultural activities, both a Spanish and a Dutch case show that achievement of the goals of the Water Framework Directive is challenging and calling for coherence of water and agricultural policies.

Cases focus on water quantity management in the Segura basin in Spain, and water quality management in the Meuse river basin in the Dommel subbasin in the Netherlands. Even when the Water Framework Directive and the Common Implementation Strategy devote significant attention to the formulation of quantitative goals for water bodies, the implementation of one of its key elements, ecological flow, is neither convincing nor even plausible.

Over the first planning period of the WFD, in both cases agricultural production practices did show desired tendencies towards lower intensity of water use (Spain) and water pollution (Netherlands) intensity. Shifts in production between commodities, or volatility in production volume however prevented these tendencies to translate into stable reductions of pressures on water resources within limits of sustainability.

Participatory processes on water policy and water policy implementation at the basin or subbasin level require coordination with and support from policy making at the national level. Generic national policies may be required to prevent efficiency improvements to be compensated by sectoral shifts or expansions.


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