Water framework directive (2000/60/EC)

Waters - River Lech
Photo: BMLRT / Alexander Haiden

The Directive aims at reaching a good status of all waters.

Directive No 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 (Water Framework Directive WFD) entered into force on 22 December 2002. It establishes quality objectives and indicates methods how to reach these objectives and how to maintain good water qualities. The focus is on a river-basin-related view, which requires on the basis of a status-quo-analysis the preparation of planning requirements in order to reach environmental goals within given deadlines.

What is the purpose of the WFD?

  • Comprehensive protection of waters
  • Good quality in all European waters within a period of 15 years
  • Water management on the basis of river basins
  • Economic instruments (economic analysis of water utilisations, selection of the most cost-efficient measures, appropriate prices in order to promote a careful way of dealing with water)
  • Involvement of the citizens - public participation

Objectives of the Water Framework Directive

Supreme goal is to “Prevent further deterioration as well as to protect and improve the status of aquatic ecosystems and the terrestrial ecosystems directly depending on them.

Partial goals are the good status of the bodies of surface water (good ecological and good chemical status) as well as the good status of groundwater (good chemical and good quantitative status). 

Implementation deadlines

The implementation of the WFD is linked to a concept of deadlines. Important milestones are:

  • The transposal into national law by the end of 2003
  • A status-quo analysis of all bodies of water by the end of 2004
  • Development of a network of measuring sites for the monitoring of bodies of water by the end of 2006 
  • Preparation of management plans with programmes of measures by the end of 2009 and
  • Gradually reaching a good status in all bodies of water by the end of 2015, 2021 and/or 2027


In order to reach these goals measures are necessary, in particular:

  • Avoidance and/or reduction of water pollution
  • Preservation or improvement of water balance, water morphology and permeability in order to safeguard the bases of life of the aquatic fauna and flora
  • Preservation or restoration of  near-natural population of water plants, small aquatic animals and plants
  • Protection and melioration of groundwater as a sustainably utilizable water resource in terms of quantity and quality.

Prohibition of deterioration

Apart from the enumerated preservation and development measures the Directive stipulates a prohibition of deterioration. This means that it has to be ensured that the present status of bodies of surface water and of the groundwater is guaranteed and that all water-relevant activities are carried out in such a way that deterioration is precluded according to the present state of knowledge. In certain cases there exist exemptions from the prohibition of deterioration.

According to the Directive there is an obligation of the Member States to:

  • Lay down environmental goals for bodies of surface water and groundwater
  • Comprehensive analyses of river basins
  • Establishment of a monitoring measuring network
  • Establishment of river basin management plans including a programme of measures with public involvement in order to gradually reach the goals by the years 2015, 2021 and/or 2027
  • Cyclical revision of the management plans for river basins (every 6 years)

Transposition of the Water Framework Directive into national law

The WFD was transposed into national law with the Amendment to the Water Rights Act 2003, Federal Law Gazette I No 112/2003, which entered into force on 22 December 2003.

In 2006 the requirements of the WFD on monitoring were implemented in Austria with the Ordinance on the Monitoring of the Quality of Water Bodies (Gewässerzustandsüberwachungsverordnung GZÜV, Federal Law Gazette II No 479/2006, amendment with Federal Law Gazette II No 465/2010) and the already existing Austrian monitoring programmes have been adapted accordingly. There are three types of monitoring programmes.

  • Surveillance monitoring
  • Operational monitoring
  • Investigative monitoring

The criteria for the determination of the chemical and the ecological status have been regulated in the respective Quality Target Ordinances (QZV Chemie OG, QZV Ökologie OG  (Quality Target Ordinance/Chemical Condition of Surface Water Quality Target Ordinance/Ecological Condition of Surface Water ) as well as QZV Chemie GW (Quality Target Ordinance/Chemical Condition of Groundwater) ).

Public participation

Article 14 of the WFD provides for public participation in the course of the implementation of the Directive and the establishment of the management plans.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management consulted institutions concerned and the public regarding the targets and the contents of the Water Framework Directive already in the course of the negotiations on the Water Framework Directive.  Also in the following years there have been regularly public presentations on the implementation of the WFD in Austria. Thus for example the results of the status quo analysis, in which the pollution of bodies of surface water and groundwater has been represented and an estimation of the impact of this pollution on the status of waters has been made, were presented to the public in the course of events as well as via the internet  (Wasserinformationssystem Austria – WISA).

In order to realize the goals and the principles of the WFD the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management initiated to prepare, in cooperation with the water management planning units of the Federal Provinces, the National Water Management Plan (Nationaler Gewässerbewirtschaftungsplan 2009 NGP 2009) which was published on 30 March.2010.