Water quality and resources
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Satisfactory water quality and quantity is of essential importance for mankind and nature. There is sufficient supply with high quality, clean tap water in Europe, and the water quality of rivers has dramatically improved. However, pollution and over-exploitation of groundwater remain major problems as well as the pollution of the North and the Baltic Sea. Access to water is also a major global problem since a major fraction of the world's population does not have access to suitable drinking water. Thus, european policies have to be analysed also with regard to potential implications for the water availability in other regions of the globe.
Problems with water quality ocurr mainly in areas with a high population density, concentrated industrial activity and intensive agriculture. Main problem areas are biological pollutants (organic matter), mostly related to intensive agricultural production and chemical water pollutants, mostly related to industrial and private wastewater production and treatment.
The European Union has adopted a wide range of policy measures to assure water protection: The Fifth Environmental Action Programme listed the following key targets: the prevention of over-exploitation of ground water and surface water for drinking water or industrial or other purposes; the prevention of pollution of ground water from diffuse sources; and a better ecological quality of surface and marine water.
The current Sixth Environmental Action Programme lists "Sustainable Use and High Quality of Water Resources" as a key issue in its priority area "Environment and Health and Quality of Life" and demands the development of a thematic strategy on: Protection and conservation of the marine environment.
A wide legislative framework for water protection exists, including the Urban Waste Water treatment Directive (91/271/EEC), that regulates pollution through private and certain industrial originators and the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC), that regulates pollution through agricultural sources. The European Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) aims at a fundamental reform: It expands the scope to all waters (including ground and surface water), demands achievement of "good status" of all waters by set deadlines, requires water management based on river-basins, sets out a combined approach of emission limit values and quality standards and asks for new price incentives and public participation.
The European bathing water quality (Council Directive 76/160/EEC) of rivers, lakes and coastal waters as well the European drinking water quality (Directive 98/83/EC) are approached as well.
According to the Impact Assessment Guidelines of the European Commission, the following key questions are of particular importance when examining the impacts of policy initiatives on water quality and resources:
- Evaluating impact on quality of water
- Evaluating impact on quality of water in the coast
- Evaluating impact on drinking water sources
- JRC: IA TOOLS. Supporting inpact assessment in the European Commission. 
This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents