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Thomas Ietswaart

Implementation of the Water Framework Directive: achievements and lessons learned at the half-way mark

The Netherlands has a long tradition in water management, mainly stemming from the geography of the country. The ‘struggle with water’ has been organised from medieval times by the water boards (waterschappen), which are the oldest democratic institutions in the Netherlands. Nowadays the water boards, 27 in the whole of the Netherlands, are not only responsible for flood protection and regulation of water levels, but for water quality management and waste water treatment as well. In the years in which the WFD implementation has been underway in the Netherlands, several issues have arisen. Cooperation between all levels of government is key. This requires as clear as possible divisions of competences between the various parties involved. It also takes much time, especially in a process in which many matters have to be invented ‘on the fly’, such as criteria for designating water bodies, ecological standards, and the formulation of MEP and GEP.