chapter  8
16 Pages

Legal protection of the right to water in the European Union

In the European Union (EU), the coming into force of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) in 2000 marked a new approach in water management.1 The Preamble to the Directive states that water is regarded as a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such. Water is explicitly considered not to be a commercial product like any other. Furthermore, the EU recognized the right to water in March 2010. This EU position does not necessarily re½ect the position of the EU Member States. Not all have recognized the right to water. Some Member States regard water as a public or common good, while others have transformed water rights into property rights (Quesada, 2010; Dellapenna and Gupta, 2009; De Visser and Mbaziri, 2006; Kissling-Näf and Kuks, 2004). European citizens regard access to safe and clean water as important. The protection of water was one of the ¼rst topics to become regulated in the ¼eld of European environmental law (Jans and Vedder, 2008). Water quality in the EU has improved in the last few decades, but not enough. And increasingly, water scarcity is becoming an issue in the EU, especially in the south of Europe. In this regard it is important to realize that a lack of water and an eventual subsequent struggle for water does not so much take place between rich and poor or indigenous and ‘new’ inhabitants, but far more between different users of water, as water is used for drinking water, agriculture, energy, shipping, industry and recreation.