"Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy", known as the European Water Framework Directive, was adopted October 23, 2000. It is administered by the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union. Water administration is based on river basin, considered the natural geographical and hydrological unit. This builds on prior initiatives by member states, sometimes involving states outside the Union as in the case of the Rhine river basin, which involves Switzerland. A river basin management plan is required for each basin, to be updated every six years. A status of "good" is required for all waters by a set deadline, objectives include "protection of the aquatic ecology and specific protection of unique and valuable habitats, protection of drinking water resources, and protection of bathing water" if those considerations apply.
Regulation of surface water includes a general requirement for ecological protection and a general minimum chemical standard to achieve "good" status. "Good ecological status" is defined in Annex V of the Directive. Good chemical status is defined in terms of compliance with all the quality standards established for chemical substances by the European Union.