The Water Framework Directive (WFD) institutionalizes the (integrated) river basin management concept for a sustainable development of Europe’s surface water and groundwater resources. The Directive introduces a set of collective rules (both substantive and organizational) for a harmonized management by the Member States. Under the label of subsidiarity, regional and local room for manoeuvre and tailor-made solutions are offered. Unfortunately, the WFD does not provide for a definition of sustainability.
Its core Article 4 provides “escape options” for a staged implementation and/or lowering objectives, taken into account “sustainable human activities” for which no sustainability conditions have been formulated. Given the context of a densely populated and heavily modified delta of four major European rivers (Rhine, Meuse, Scheldt and Ems), it may not come as a surprise that the Dutch tradesmen have chosen the feasibility and affordability mantra for a staged implementation of the WFD. One might argue whether going Dutch overrules the European sustainability ambitions or brings them even closer. Although some stakeholders mention a watering down of ambitions and objectives, others praise the negotiated obligations which they consider a huge step forward within the Dutch landscape of far-stretching intentional water objectives (which might never been realized). Which opinion do you have on this question? And what are experiences with the WFD implementation in your country? You are kindly invited to contribute to this discussion.
Leo Santbergen works as senior policy advisor at the Brabantse Delta Water Management Authority. He combines his job with a PhD project on the impact of the WFD on rules for river basin management in the International Meuse River Basin, with special emphasis on the Dutch implementation process. His dissertation is to be expected in the first half of 2012. Prof. Dr. Pieter Leroy and Dr. Sander Meijerink from Radboud University of Nijmegen are his supervisors. For more information contact Leo by sending an e-mail : email@example.com or by phone (0031)(0)76-5641219.