Need for pure water

There is a high demand for clean water, not only in rivers and streams (river basins), but also at sea. Just like the seas, most rivers are transboundary. It is therefore agreed within the European Union to address the environmental problems of the seas and rivers in a coordinated manner. The Water Framework Directive 2000/60 was adopted with reference to the rivers; a directive that integrated a number of existing European regulations for water quality (waste water, fishing water, drinking water, bathing water etc.). Because the water from the river basins ultimately end up in the sea, the Water Framework Directive does not only concern the river basins but also the coastal waters.

Push back the pollution and increase naturalness

The goal of the directive is to achieve a good biological and chemical water quality by 2015, not only in the lakes and rivers, but also in the coastal waters. For the biological water quality, one looks at:

- the composition of the fauna and flora;
- the quantity of oxygen or nutrients (fertilisers) in the water;
- the acidity (pH);
- but also at the flow or naturalness of the river bed.

The chemical state of a water body is defined on the basis of a list of chemical pollutants and a list of the so-called "priority substances" which must comply with certain standards (environmental quality standards).

Enforcement in the Belgian part of the North Sea

The Water Framework Directive was transposed into the national legislation by the Royal Decree of June 23, 2010 concerning the establishment of a framework for achieving a good surface water condition. With this Royal Decree, both the Water Framework Directive 2000/60 and the subsidiary directive 2008/15 concerning the environmental quality standards were transposed into the national legislation. The Framework directive is applicable only in certain areas of the Belgian part of the North Sea: as regards the ecological and chemical status, in the coastal waters (one nautical mile) and insofar the chemical status, also in the territorial waters (12 nautical miles). A strict time schedule was agreed to in order to implement the Framework directive:

2006: set-up of a monitoring program by the Administrative Unit of the Mathematical Model of the North Sea and the Scheldt estuary (MUMM);

2009: set-up of a river basin plan. With reference to the Belgian coastal waters belonging to the international river basin district of Scheldt, a River Basin Management plan was prepared;

2012: drafting an operational program for the measures. At national level, this forms a part of the follow-up of the river basin management plan in consultation with the International Scheldt Commission (ISC).

2016: set-up of a new river basin plan. Following the model of the 2009 river basin plan, a new river basin plan was established for the Belgian coastal waters.

The marine environmental service of the FPS Public health, Food chain safety and Environment is responsible for the monitoring of the Water Framework Directive as regards the Belgian coastal waters; the coordination with the Regions takes place in the Coordinating Committee for International Environmental Policy (CCIM). You can find more information about this Framework Directive at the website of the European Commission.