The introduction of the EU water framework directive into Swedish legislation in 2004 meant a new holistic approach to water issues, and a water authority was created to coordinate the work on preserving and improving the quality of our water in accordance with the directive.
Water is our most important provision and a condition for all life. There is a shortage of water in many parts of the world, but in Sweden we have the opposite – water in abundance. Our climate provides us with precipitation in the form of rain and snow so that there is enough water for us all. But access to clean water is not a given, even in Sweden. Protecting and preserving our water requires purposive work over the long term.
For decades, Sweden has worked actively on improving the quality of its water with the help of legislation and other control measures. Since 2000 there has been an EU directive – the water framework directive – which binds all EU countries to work in common on water issues. In 2004, the water directive was introduced into Swedish legislation through measures such as the Water Quality Management Ordinance.
The implementation of the water framework directive involves several important changes in relation to our previous methods of caring for our water. One such change is the creation of a new administrative organisation: the water authority. Another important difference is that there is now a holistic view of our water. There are no longer administrative boundaries between municipalities and counties, for example, but the natural water boundaries (watersheds) between water systems, which define the drainage areas that are the starting point for our work.
Water management is carried out in a six-year cycle that is comprised of a number of recurring elements. The first cycle concluded in December 2009. The present cycle will run through the end of 2015. The goal is for all of Sweden’s waters to have achieved at least adequate status by 2015. In the cases where this is not possible for various reasons, the deadline can be pushed back to as late as 2027.