Integrated water management – revised lists of surface and groundwater pollutants

EESC opinion: Integrated water management – revised lists of surface and groundwater pollutants

Key points:


  • strongly supports the European Commission's proposal to add a number of crucial water pollutants to the lists of priority substances for surface and groundwater, which will be used to assess chemical status under the Water Framework Directive. Member States will have to monitor their presence in water and make sure that quality standards are not surpassed. The proposal is several years overdue and is a welcome attempt to bring chemical water status assessment up to date;
  • points out that clean water is fundamental for our society and the environment, as well as for socioeconomic activities. A strong water protection framework, focusing on pollution reduction at source, will bring benefits for ecosystems, recreational water users and industry, and ensure clean and affordable drinking water;
  • stresses that benefits associated with unpolluted water outweigh the costs associated with the initiative, for example by avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals and less need for treatment to reach drinking water standards. Changing use-patterns of harmful substances, with the objective of reducing their presence in water, can also bring co-benefits such as reduced exposure to harmful pesticides for workers in the agri-food sector;
  • asks for specific guidelines to be developed for industries that use water with different substances in the production processes, as more should be done for health and safety in the workplace;
  • recommends that the Member States do more to collect, organise and interpret water data and put environmental data needs at the top of their priorities. Reducing data delays and ensuring specific indicators across the Member States is important. In particular, more should be done to evaluate and monitor the impact of the combined substances on the environment and human health;
  • stresses that monitoring measures, including ending illegal use and derogations, must remain in place in the Member States where excessive amounts are detected, even if those substances have been de-listed as priority substances at EU level;
  • calls on the European institutions to start addressing water as a priority and develop a "EU Blue Deal": a radical effort to anticipate needs, to preserve water resources and adequately manage related challenges through a comprehensive and coordinated roadmap, setting ambitious targets and actions linked to agreed milestones. The EESC will make concrete proposals towards an EU Blue Deal in the course of 2023.