European River Memorandum

European River Memorandum

Water suppliers in the catchment areas of the major European rivers are convinced that a future-proof, climate-friendly, safe and affordable water supply for everyone requires generation-spanning preservation of the usability of the drinking water resources. Their common intention and aim is sustainable and precaution-driven protection of drinking water resources. The resulting strategies and requirements for water protection are specified in this memorandum.


The European River Memorandum is available in 4 languages: it can be downloaded in German, English, Dutch and French.


Around 170 water suppliers have joined forces in the organisations listed below. They represent the water protection and drinking water interests of 188 million people in the catchment areas of the rivers Rhine and Ruhr, Danube, Elbe, Meuse and Scheldt in 18 riparian states: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Hungary.


  • IAWR, International Association of Waterworks in the Rhine Catchment Area and its member associations:
    AWBR, the Association of Lake Constance and Rhine Waterworks
    ARW, the Association of Rhine Waterworks.
    RIWA-Rijn, Dutch Association of Rhine Waterworks
  • IAWD, International Association of Waterworks in the Danube Catchment Area
  • AWE, Association of Water Companies in the Elbe Catchment Area
  • AWWR, Association of Ruhr Waterworks
  • RIWA-Maas, Association of Meuse Waterworks
  • RIWA-Scheldt, Association of Scheldt Waterworks

Access to clean drinking water is a human right. Drinking water is essential, indispensable and an important basis for a sound economy. Together, we are responsible for using water considerately, returning it clean to the water cycle after use, and preserving it for the next generations. This requires everyone’s contribution to sustainable management of water resources.

The European River Memorandum 2020 will help decision-makers in politics, authorities, industry and water management and serve as orientation for the still required improvement of the quality of water bodies used for drinking water. It will contribute to an open and transparent public discussion and show the necessity of precautionary protection of water bodies, in particular since climate change will make water resources scarcer and increase the relevance of the remaining water resources. A high-quality and sustainable drinking water supply without high technical and financial efforts must be secured for future generations.

Due to its predominant relevance, drinking water supply must take precedence over any other use of water bodies. In many regions, water suppliers depend substantially on surface water. These water bodies are potentially exposed to many emissions of contaminants. It is a clear aim to achieve a water quality in these water bodies that permits drinking water supply using natural treatment methods only.

The water quality as required in this memorandum is compliant with the strategy of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which is based on the principles of precaution and sustainability. Natural treatment methods minimise the otherwise required technical impact on the water. They are based on the self-cleaning powers of nature and retain the natural character of water. Drinking water production with natural treatment methods saves energy and resources, which makes it climate and environmentally friendly.

The Waterworks’ strategy of protection of water bodies is presented in several theses:

  1. Priority of public water supply
  2. Precaution-driven protection of water bodies
  3. Sustainable management of water resources
  4. Prohibition of deterioration / requirement of minimalisation
  5. Monitoring of water bodies by authorities
  6. taking responsibility for discharged substances
  7. Industrial plant safety and incident prevention
  8. Regulation of particularly critical substances
  9. Application of stricter hygiene standards
  10. Shared responsibility

In addition, this memorandum defines target values for surface water. Water bodies that meet the target values of the following tables, permit sustainable production of drinking water with basic natural treatment methods.

The European River Memorandum is available in 4 languages: it can be downloaded in German, English, Dutch and French.