Living Rivers Europe

For an ambitious Water Framework Directive

European Union’s water policy fitness check in 2018

Freshwater is an extremely limited resource on our planet and is critical to a large part of the Earth’s biological diversity. Healthy freshwater ecosystems play an important role in providing society with a large number of services such as water purification, carbon sequestration, food provision and flood protection. Yet, freshwater ecosystems such as wetlands, lakes and rivers, are experiencing the biggest loss of wildlife on the planet. Abundance of freshwater species has shrunk by 81% since the 1970’s. 

The implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), the EU’s main legislation governing the management of its freshwater resources, has led to some dramatic improvements in water ecosystems and the wildlife dependent on them. However, the objective of the WFD of achieving good status for all Europe’s waters by 2015 has been missed by a long shot. Today only about 50% of Europe’s waters are estimated to be in good condition. Unsustainable agriculture, hydropower, flood defence and navigation are recognised as the main pressures preventing Europe’s waters to recover.

This directive, the most ambitious of the EU, has been revising since 2018.

Living Rivers Europe join this process

To follow this process, a NGO alliance, committed to the defence of freshwater ecosystems and their sustainable management in the EU, launched the “Living Rivers Europe” platform in March 2017.

The coalition includes the European Rivers Network (ERN), WWF, European Anglers Alliance (EAA), the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Wetlands International European Association (WI-EA) representing a movement of over 40 million European citizens. Its objectives are to closely monitor the review process of the EU Water Framework Directive.

Together we will campaign for

1. A better implementation and enforcement of the Water Framework Directive;

2. An effective integration of water management aspects into relevant sectoral policies, particularly agriculture, energy, flood risk management and transport; and

3. The maintenance of the Water Framework Directive’s high standards of water resources and ecosystem protection.

Living Rivers Europe actions

-Raise awareness and inform the general public and the media

-Supporting and enlightening policy makers

-Promote and support public consultation

To carry out these actions, LRE in particular lead the #ProtectWater campaign, published a report presenting, through example, the contributions of the WFD to protect and restore our water resource (Bringing life back to Europe’s Waters, the EU water law in action). LRE also participate in meetings organized by the European Commission (ex : Vienna Conference 20, 21 September 2018, Environment Council in Bucharest, Romania 20, 21 May 2019, etc.) and edit press release and other media to raise awareness about challenges of this revision

– June 2020 : On 22 June 2020 the European Commission announced that EU water legislation – the Water Framework Directive – will not be changed. In a statement to POLITICO, the EU’s Commissioner for Environment, Ocean and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, confirmed the need to focus on supporting implementation and enforcement “without changing the directive”. (more infos)

– April 2020 : Despite the Covid-19 global health crisis- April 20, 2020, 23 large companies taking a stand for the EU water law & calling on the EU to uphold it ! (more info)

– March 2020 : Citizens mobilised and called their minister ahead of the Environment Council meeting on 5 March 2020 (mail, video, meetings, etc.). At this meeting, 4 Member states (AU, DK, FR, and GR) clearly asked for no revision to the directive  and 5 Member states (DE, ES, FI, IT, CY) made supportive statements to the fitness check conclusions & expressed the need for better implementation. This is good news for rivers, and these 9 supportive Member states represent 64,75% of the EU population. (more infos)

– December 2019 : 5 500+ scientists and academics released a statement calling on the EU to fully implement and enforce the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in order to halt and reverse the catastrophic decline in the world’s freshwater biodiversity. The statement is endorsed by twelve scientific bodies representing over 5,000 scientists, and more than 500 individual scientists specialising in the wide array of species impacted by the WFD – from amphibians to insects, freshwater fishes to birdlife. The scientists include Dr. Jörg Freyhof, Regional Chair of the IUCN/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, and Professor Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, Director of Swansea University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research. View the statement, download the full list of signatories or add your name to the statement.

– December 2019 : 11 December, the European Commission’s final evaluation of EU water legislation has concluded the EU Water Framework Directive to be “fit for purpose”. In particular, the conclusions indicate that the objectives of the law “are as relevant now as they were at the time of the adoption” and that the law has led to “a higher level of protection for water bodies and flood risk management”. The results also saying that any lack of progress is due to ‘insufficient funding, slow implementation and insufficient integration of environmental objectives in sectoral policies, and not due to a deficiency in the legislation’.(more info)

– November 2019 : The paper drafted by a group of government officials, which included a series of proposed changes to weaken the WFD was NOT endorsed at the Water Directors’ meeting November the 29!! The letter  sent to Water Directors in the behalf of Living Rivers Europe coaltion (and other actions), which urge Water Directors not to endorse the document were explicitly recognised in the discussion and in the final report of the meeting !

– May 2019: Living Rivers Europe publishes new analysis outlining the positions of various industry groups on the Water Framework Directive. The paper shows that, if ever put into effect, such changes would give these sectors the green light to undertake even more destructive activities, potentially causing havoc on our rivers and lakes.

– Mach 2019 : Public consultation and #Protectwater campaign ended yesterday 12 March and managed to mobilise 375,386 people from across Europ, making the EU’s public consultation on the legislation one of the largest ever in the history of the European Union ! Read press release

– September 2018 : 20-21 September 2018: #ProtectWater takeover of the EU Water Conference in Vienna, including a body-painting stunt outside of the conference. Publication of new Living Rivers Europe report, Bringing Life back to Europe’s Rivers: The EU Water Law in Action.

– July 2018 : 8 July 2018: The European Rivers Network and WWF organise the biggest Big Jump ever, with 160 events taking place across 18 European countries.

Read press releases and other documents in download section

This plateforme is an initiative of


Press releas, 

  • 22 June 2020 : Press release : EU water law will NOT be changed, confirms European Commission, Living Rivers Europe
  • 11 December 2019 : Press release : Christmas comes early for rivers and nature: European Commission concludes EU water law is “fit for purpose”, Living Rivers Europe
  • 15 May 2019 : Press release: New paper exposes business lobbies’ wish list of destruction : Living Rivers Europe
  • 13 March 2019: Press release 375,000+ citizens tell the European Commission “Hands off our water law!”, Living Rivers Europe.
  • 25 February  2019 : Publication of the European Commission’s reports on WFD implementation
    => Press Releases from major NGOs : WWF EPO’s    Wetlands International   European Environnemtal Bureau (EEB)
  • 9 October 2018. Presse release on launch #ProtectWater campaign. Could this be the beer of the future? 100 environmental groups launch European campaign to save the EU water law, Living Rivers Europe
  • 20 September 2018 : Press release : Bring life back to Europe’s rivers and lakes”, WWF urges Member States ahead of critical water conference in Vienna
  • 3 July 2018, Press release by European Environement Agency European waters getting cleaner, but big challenges remain
  • 21 April 2018. Press Release on Word Fish Migration Day (english) : Dams have had their day – EU governments must ramp up ambition on their removal, Living Rivers Europe
  • 22 March 2018. Press Release on Word Water Day (english).77,000+ citizens call on Slovenian government to stop damming of the Mura River,  Living Rivers Europe
  • 27 March 2017, Press Release“Living Rivers Europe” platform launched for the upcoming review of the Water Framework Directive, Living Rivers Europe


  •  03 March 2020 : Letter signed by the 130+ civil society groups that supported the #ProtectWater campaign, sent to Commissioner Sinkevičius, Commissioner, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries; Minister Ćorić, President-in-office of the Environment Council; and Pascal Canfin, Chair, Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety  : The letter calls for the European Commission to firmly annoiunce that the Water Framework Directive will not be amended, in accordance with the fitness check conclusions, and to focus on addressing the implementation gaps identified in the evaluation, including through the European Green Deal initiatives.
  • 14 May 2019 : Letter to Environment Ministers of EU Member States  : Input to the informal meeting of the Ministers of Environment and ministe-rial water conference, Bucharest, 20-22 May 2019
  • 26 November : Letter to Water Directors  : Document on “the Future of the Water Framework Directive – Water Directors input tothe fitness check process on experiences and challenges of the WFD’s implementation andoptions for the way forward”

“Living Rivers Europe” vision and statement (english)

Report : Bringing life back to Europe’s Waters, the EU water law in action (english)

Document : Weakening the EU Water law : Industry’s wish list (english)

Living Rivers Europe

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