The impact of politics on the application of the Drinking Water Directive (80/778/EEC)
This paper seeks to address a growing lack of historical knowledge in the water industry of how European Union (EU) water policy has developed and been responded to. It also aims to overcome the lack of comparative studies that explore the role politics has played in the development and application of EU water policy. As a result, this paper develops a historical comparative understanding of how England and Wales and the Republic of Ireland have responded to the Drinking Water Directive (80/778/EEC). It does so from the perspectives of political priority and ideology. Political ideology is shown to have had a greater impact on facilitating the achievement of the Directive's standards in England and Wales. However, it is established that the political priority national governments have accorded compliance has been central to ensuring the application and enforcement of the Directive's standards. Despite the apparent success of political ideology in England and Wales, the paper sounds a note of caution with regard to judging privatisation as being uniformly successful, for it has not, particularly if issues of water charges, customer debt and financial and reporting irregularities are considered. © 2009 The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 CIWEM.