An integrated approach to water protection and management: the European Union model

Julie Adshead (University of Salford, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Law in the Built Environment

ISSN: 1756-1450

Publication date: 2 October 2009



The purpose of this paper is to examine the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive. It seeks first to determine whether its provisions align with modern thinking on integrated river basin management and second to assess the degree to which it has the potential to achieve legislative and inter‐agency integration throughout the Union.


This is a desktop study. The paper draws upon theories and definitions of integrated river basin management and internal integration in existing literature and then proceeds to examine the provisions of the Water Framework Directive in the light of the models identified.


The framework for river basin management in the Water Framework Directive does not fully match the modern approach to integrated river basin management. The directive is limited by its primary focus upon the single medium of water, and its consequent failure to fully address wider land use planning issues. It, therefore, also fails to achieve integration between all relevant legislative instruments. It provides a framework for stakeholder involvement that could potentially serve the goal of inter‐agency integration. However, due to the high level of discretion in the hands of member states, there is likely to be a substantial divergence of practice across the EU.


In assessing the Water Framework Directive against modern notions of river basin management and the directive's stated integrative aspirations, the paper informs implementation and practice in member states.



Adshead, J. (2009), "An integrated approach to water protection and management: the European Union model", International Journal of Law in the Built Environment, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 234-243.

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