Changes to groundwater directive approved

Screenshot 2014-02-18 11.30.26Member state representatives in Brussels have approved a series of reforms to the 2006 groundwater directive after a review of two of its annexes last year but the EU-wide quality standards have not changed.

  • The European Commission decided there was not enough information available to set new quality standards, which means that nitrates and pesticides remain the only substances listed in annex I of the directive.
  • However, a “watch list” will be set up to collect more information on pollutants, including emerging contaminants, and identify which need to be addressed in future.  There is already a similar watch list for surface water pollutants.
  • Annex II of the directive lists the substance member states should consider setting national threshold values for. Nitrites and total phosphorous or phosphates are being added to this list because of their contribution to eutrophication.

The Commission did consider making it mandatory to monitor and adopt threshold values for all annex II substances. However, a consultation showed this was unpopular with public authorities and businesses.

But the directive’s guidelines for reporting the chemical status of groundwater have been rewritten and more guidance provided on determining threshold values.

  • Member states must be more transparent about their enforcement of the threshold values, including saying how long any breaches will be allowed to last.

Existing threshold values are hard to compare, partly because of differing interpretation of guidance on background levels, and the quality of reporting was low in the first round of river basin management plans.

  • The changes will now be subject to a three-month scrutiny period in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. Member states will have to transpose the changes within two years of them entering force.

Draft directiveamended annexes and Commission presentation on the review from November 2013.