Policy brief: EU water law and its ability to support soil protection

This briefing, produced as part of the ISQAPER project, provides an overview of the links between water and soil policy and looks at how the EU water policy framework could be used to enhance the protection of soils in Europe.

Key messages

  • Soils and surface waters are intimately related – a lot of surface and groundwater enters water bodies through soils. Substances in soils may, therefore, end up as pollutants in water bodies through diffuse pollution and erosion. Thus, many pollutants pose a risk to both soils and waters.
  • EU law is relatively comprehensive for water protection, but views control of pollutants from soils from the perspective of water protection rather than wider environmental protection including that of soils themselves.
  • The limited links between EU water law and soil protection actions have been recognised in the recent Fitness Check of EU water policy.
  • Many Member States have different institutional arrangements for soil and water protection, making integrated decision making a challenge.
  • Member States could integrate water and soil planning better, with combined assessments of pressures and risks (including within River Basin Management Plans) and adopting an integrated approach to measures that deliver protection to both of these environmental media.

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