Good Water, Good Policy

Publication date: 11 May 2023
The Netherlands has to meet the requirements of the WFD by 2027. What government policy is needed from government to achieve the WFD objectives as quickly as possible and then consolidate the objectives achieved?
Children playing in and around the water, with newly built houses in the background.

Background and focus of the advisory letter

The aim of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) is to ensure a good and healthy status for surface water and groundwater systems and an adequate ready supply of clean water. In the National Water Programme 2022-2027 and in a number of policy letters, the Dutch government has explicitly stated its ambition to implement the measures required to achieve the WFD objectives by 2027 and, if necessary, to coordinate these measures at national level. The urgency is high. Previously, the government has commissioned a study to examine the legal ramifications of failing to achieve the objectives.

Meeting the requirements of the WFD is a major challenge for all stakeholders in agriculture, industry, water and land management, and public administration. Moreover, this task must be carried out in conjunction with other challenges, such as those concerning climate and biodiversity restoration, which are being tackled in related area-specific processes. A number of tensions have been identified with regard to these tasks. For example, the WFD measures are often already so specific that they are not compatible with the design process involving different actors that is necessary to complete the intended area-specific processes. There are also cross-border water quality issues that are not expected to be resolved by 2027 and the division of roles between government agencies and actors is unclear. Finally, there will continue to be tensions after 2027. Even then, water systems will be used for a variety of functions and will continue to be adversely affected as a result. In addition, the climate is changing and the Netherlands is developing into a circular society, with all that that entails for the country's water systems. What are the options for improving ways of embedding care for water quality - including in the longer term - both in decision-making and in the behaviour of all the stakeholders?

The council intends to address these points in a letter to the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, in answer to the following question:

What government policy is needed from government to achieve the WFD objectives as quickly as possible and then consolidate the objectives achieved?


The advisory report will be published on 11 May 2023.

Composition of the council committee

Karin Sluis, council member and committee chair
Krijn Poppe, council member

External committee members
Marleen van Rijswick, Professor of European and Dutch Water Law, Utrecht University
Susanne Wuijts, Senior Researcher and Policy Advisor, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)
Lambert Verheijen

Information or response: 

For further information on the advisory report, please contact project leader Nicole van Buren at or +31 (0)6 10172005.