EC environmental law has been the subject of close scrutiny for many years, with inadequate transposition and implementation of directives highlighted by the European Court and others. This scrutiny has played a part in the incremental development of the nature of the obligations which directives place on Member States. Thus a history of transposition can be studied for the older directives, so that uncertainties and other problems with provisions; the evolving nature of transposing measures; and the experience of practical implementation can be brought together to identify failings in transposition and implementation, assess whether and how these have been addressed; and identify the continuing consequences of these failings.
This article examines such a ‘life-cycle’ of transposition and implementation within the United Kingdom of one of the more mature environmental directives – the Groundwater Directive. This directive is nearing the end of a lengthy life-cycle, with the transition to the Water Framework Directive underway. The Directive has not been the subject of significant attention by the courts or academic writers and so it might be assumed that it has proved less problematic than other directives. Yet there have been important, albeit latent, problems, which only become apparent when looking beneath the level of paper transposition at practical implementation. These problems could, however, have serious continuing consequences for the environment.