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Questions for Marta Moren-Abat,

DG Environment of the European commission

The European authorities examined both the status of water resources in 2009 and the management plans drafted by the Member States to achieve good water status. What were the results concerning the status of water in France?

France reported quality levels for water bodies similar to the average values of the other European countries, i.e. 35% of water bodies had good ecological status, 6.5% had high status, 56% had moderate, poor or bad status, plus 2% of water bodies that were not assessed. These averages mask widely varying situations. Ample knowledge on the ecological status is now available and a large number of analysis methods are currently implemented. Assessment of the chemical status is less satisfactory in that the status of 35% of water bodies is unknown. Finally, the situation for groundwater is better with almost 60% of water bodies achieving good status. Between 2009 and 2015, another 15% of surface water bodies should achieve good status. Progress has been slow, there is still considerable work to be done and the time required by ecosystems to recover is very long. But the important thing is that decisive measures have been undertaken. Similar to many other Member States, considerable pressures continue to weigh, notably in terms of nonpoint-source pollution from farms and river hydromorphology.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the programmes of measures in France?

To design its programmes, France made a major effort to coordinate water stakeholders and to consult the public. Considerable work was put into integrating the fundamental WFD principles into French water policy. The proposed programmes of measures must be tailored to meet the considerable pressures encountered. Particular attention must be paid to the measures required for the water bodies that will not achieve good status by 2015, the deadline set by the WFD. Among the weak points noted in France is the high number of exemptions, i.e. requests to postpone achievement of good status, for economic reasons. Clear and serious reasons must be put forward to justify such exemptions. For certain categories of water, problems have been observed in the methods used to assess biological-quality elements, physical-chemical status and hydromorphological characteristics, as well as in the manner in which substances are taken into account in accessing chemical status. Finally, current management plans include measures to avoid shortages and droughts, but they do not sufficiently take into account climate change. It is important that France take all the above points into consideration in preparing the future management plans in 2015.

What does the European commission recommend for France?

France has made a serious effort, but even more progress will be required between 2015 and 2027. Assessment methods must still be improved, particularly for coastal and transitional waters. Concerning chemical status, the priority must be to reduce the percentage of water bodies with unknown status, to better identify and select the specific pollutants in each river basin and to take into account the various substances. A clearly defined strategy must be set up for the protection of water bodies in agricultural areas. France must also work towards achieving good status for the water bodies that have received exemptions. For the 2015 management plan, the characterisation of pressures and the definition of restoration methods must be improved. Finally, it will be necessary to ensure that the programmes of measures are effectively implemented and produce the desired results, and that no delays are incurred due to funding difficulties. The European commission is convinced that France is making the necessary efforts to ensure that the 2015 management plan will contribute significantly to achieving the good status of water bodies.



Photo : Laëtitia Boutet-Berry – Onema



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