Factsheet #9

Ex-ante conditionalities for investments ensuring water policy compliance

Instrument Type


Governance Level


Governance Mode


Water management topics addressed

Drought & water scarcity
Water abstraction for irrigation and other economic activities
Water quality issues due to nutrient pollution
Water quality issues: Other reasons

Implementation requirements

Financial capacity


Human capacity


Political buy-in


Timeframe for implementation


#9: Ex-ante conditionalities for investments ensuring water policy compliance


Ex-ante conditionalities affect whether an investment is financially supported or not. That depends on the respective compliance with the legal requirements. The instrument aims to promote compliance with policies in other sectors.


Water-related investments under funds that are intended for water-related programs and projects in order to support regional development can be made subject to an ex-ante conditionality. A number of criteria related specifically to whether member countries satisfy the most essential requirements of EU water legislation. 
Requirements applicable to all water-related programs include the existence of:
- Compliant river basin management plans,
- compliant water pricing policies,
- a relevant monitoring network,
- compliant environmental objectives and use of exemptions, 
and a summary of the programs of measures that will deliver the objectives set.
Similarly, funds intended to support rural development are subject to an ex-ante conditionality for payment of support for investments in irrigation systems, regarding the introduction of:
- a water pricing policy recovering environmental and resource costs,
- the existence of a river basin, management plan for the basin concerned,
- the use of water metering,
- a minimum requirement for water savings.

Example: The EU conditionalities in the Structural and Investment Funds

The European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds 2014-2020 have introduced ex-antes conditionalities for investments to comply with the EU's water policy.
The European Commission's research underlines the value of such tools when trying to promote faster compliance with EU regulatory requirements as well as in the enhancement of effectiveness through accurate strategies in the policy areas where ESI funds have competence.
Furthermore, the process created a channel for dialogue between the Commission and the Member States.
Nevertheless, in some of the EU-15 countries these positive outcomes were felt to be marginal and the effort of securing conditionalities was regarded to be disproportionate when compared with the limited benefits derived from it. The costs, the scale and the timing of some of the measures required to implement the conditionalities often exceeded initial estimates and required additional resources, which attracted some criticism towards the process.


European Commission (2017). Building an evidence base for cohesion policy post-2020. https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/policy/how/studies_integration/setting_db_short_summary_en.pdf Retrieved on 22 September 2020.

OECD (2015) Water Resources Governance in Brazil. OECD Studies on Water https://www.oecd.org/gov/water-resources-governance-in-brazil-9789264238121-en.htm Retrieved on 24 September 2020

Already have an account? Login!