The French water policy is based on four principles:
•A global (or integrated) approach taking into account the physical, chemical and biological equilibrium of ecosystems between surface and ground waters
for quantity and quality
•A breakdown into territories well-suited to water resource management: the river basin
•Participation of and dialogue between the various categories of users
•Economic incentives: user-payer and polluter-payer principle
Various actors are involved in water protection as it relates to contaminated-land management. At the national level, the Water Division of the Ministry
of Ecology and Sustainable Development is in charge of the legal water framework. The Directorate of Risk Prevention is in charge of contaminated land management.
Locally, the Prefects are assisted by inspectors in various regional offices (DDAF, DDE). Six Water Authorities, covering the major river basins, have 5 specific
•ensure the balance between water resources and needs
•reach the quality objectives set by regulations
•improve and increase the usable resources within the basin
•protect resources against flooding and pollution
•coordinate general actions within the river basin, such as:
-instrumentation and measuring
-assistance for water recycling and savings
-public information, etc.
These actions are financed by an additional tax on pumping and discharge rates. At the regional level, a Basin-Coordinator Prefect is responsible for coordinating
Water policy. At the local level, towns are responsible for drinking-water distribution.
In France, wellhead protection zones exist (see Contaminated Land/Soil and Groundwater processes) and there is an obligation to avoid enabling communication
between separate groundwater aquifers while boring (see Groundwater processes) seem to be uniquely French.
More information may be found on the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea web site:
Article 65 of the Ministerial Order of February 2, 1998 lists sites where soil and groundwater might be rapidly contaminated in case of dysfunction. These are
priority sites for groundwater monitoring.
Law of January 1992 concerning Water Resource Management and Protection (“Water law”), revised in 2006.
This law considers water resources to be an indivisible national asset. The main principles are that:
•Water is part of the national heritage: its protection and withdrawal, and sustainable resource development are of general importance and therefore in
the public interest.
•National and balanced management of water resources is required.
•Water resources (surface water, groundwater, seawater within territorial boundaries) must be protected from all contamination and their quality reclaimed
in order to protect public health and the drinking-water supply, and for public safety.
•Large-scale planning is required to prevent pollution: SDAGE (Schéma Directeur d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux) or Water Development and Management
Master Plans are being developed at the basin scale (with overlapping at the boundaries of administrative regions).
The principal differences (mainly for historical legal reasons) between the “Water law” and the contaminated-land policy (under the ICPE law) are:
•The Water Law focuses on water management and protection. Water resources, in particular groundwater, are considered to be potential receptors of contamination.
This is due mainly to the intensive withdrawal of groundwater for drinking water supplies, groundwater accounting for 45 % to 98 % of the supply, depending on
the region (average = 65 %).
•Contaminated-land policy focuses on the industrial sources of contamination. Water resources are one of the four targets or receptors studied in the French
risk-based approach to contaminated sites (along with public health, ecosystems, and structures). Here, the 'fit-for-use' concept must be applied.
In some of the authorized areas (defined at basin level as part of the SDAGE master plans, see above), the differences between the two approaches is minimal
because the remediation objective is to obtain acceptable drinking-water quality (maximum acceptable concentrations).
A new Water Law came into effect on December 30, 2006. It aims:
•to give government officials, local communities and stakeholders tools:
•to reach ecological quality objectives for water (in compliance with the European Commission Framework Directive of December 22, 2000, transposed into
French law by the Water Law of April 21, 2004)
•to reach a better balance between water resources and needs from a perspective of sustainable development of economic activities
•to foster dialogue between stakeholders
•to help towns and cities adapt drinking water supply and sanitation services to the new stakes:
•transparency for users
•solidarity with those in need