ICPR – International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine

Targets and principles of the Water Framework Directive

The objective is the good status

The objective is the good status of groundwater and surface waters. This comprises lakes and running waters as well as transitional and coastal waters up to the so-called baseline one nautical mile off the coast. All these waters are to be clean and ecologically intact by 2015 or, with deadline extensions, by 2027.

Interdiction of deterioration

The status of waters must not deteriorate (interdiction of deterioration). The EU Member States must take appropriate action to improve water bodies, which are expected to probably not meet the environment targets by 2015 or, with deadline extensions, by 2027. All uses must be taken into account, which directly or indirectly affect the state of water bodies, no matter, whether industry, navigation, the use of hydroelectric power or agriculture is concerned.

A core task in the Rhine river district will be to reduce pollution due to polluting agents and to keep dangerous substances away from waters. Apart from that the character of the river banks and its bottom, the interaction between the river and its alluvial area and free fish migration are seriously affected along the Rhine and its tributaries and need to be improved.

Protection in the entire watershed

One of the greatest opportunities and challenges of the directive is the obligation to manage waters across frontiers: River basins are natural entities, from their source to their outlet into the sea: they do not only comprise the main stream, but also its watershed, that is the entire surface and underground drainage area.

Recovery of costs

Another new aspect is that, in order to reach the environment targets, economic principles, such as recovery of costs for drinking water supply and waste water discharge have for the first time been integrated into an EU-wide directive. The most cost efficient measures targeted at improving the water bodies will be chosen on the basis of cost-benefit analyses.

Implementation schedule

The implementation follows precise guidelines and schedules. Depending on the risk assessed within the inventory, water bodies are under targeted control. In 2009, the first management plans for the period 2010-2015 were drawn up for all European river systems; this was also done by the ICPR for the international river basin district (IFGE) Rhine. The WFD foresees management planning in 6-year cycles. The second management plan 2016-2021 IFGE Rhine published in 2015 was reviewed until the end of 2021 and updated where necessary. The present third internationally coordinated management plan 2022-2027 IFGE Rhine documents the updates.

Public involvement

Water protection can only be successful, if the public is informed and involved. Interest groups play a key role, since they represent the entire range of pressures on water bodies, no matter whether economic uses, nature protection or leisure are concerned.