The 5th European Water Conference took place on 20-21 September 2018 in Vienna bringing together representatives from EU countries, the European Commission, the European Environment Agency and other EU institutions. The event provided an opportunity to review progress in implementing EU water legislation and discuss trends in European water quality and flood management as well as challenges faced.

The main objective of EU water legislation is to achieve good status of the EU's water resources. The ongoing Fitness Check of the Water Framework Directive, its associated Directives and the Floods Directive, and the evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) were among the main topics discussed. Good progress across Europe has been reported in the improvement of water quality. It was stated that the management of water has become more integrated, and far more knowledge is available. The management of risks to prevent floods has also advanced.

However, new challenges such as pollution from micropollutants (pharmaceutical residues, microplastics, etc.), the impacts of climate change remain to be addressed. In addition, more efforts are needed related to securing sustainable management of water and dependent ecosystems. Opportunities of circular economy to address challenges in the water sector were also highlighted, e.g. with regards to water reuse, nutrients recovery, energy recovery/generation.

The need to improve implementation of environmental policies for water protection and maximising synergies between them was emphasised. Some economic sectors e.g. agriculture, energy and transport need to adopt management practices which keep water ecosystems healthy and resilient. These problems can, amongst others, be tackled when assessing the overall “fitness” of EU Water law, including the Urban Waste Water Treatment directive.

On 3 July, the 2018 State of Water Report from the European Environment Agency was published. Later in the year, a new comprehensive assessment of the state of implementation will become available. This will include a Commission report on the EU Member States' second River Basin Management Plans and first Flood Risk Management Plans.