The paper distinguishes between the definitions of ground water in the UK and in European Community (EC) law. Each of the three main EC directives affecting groundwater is considered in turn, together with the associated official circulars. Examples are given of some problems of interpretation of the EC Groundwater Directive.

Details are included of a new national classification scheme for dangerous substances reaching groundwater. Threshold values are set out in a formal 'direction' for the criteria of low toxicity, persistence, and bioaccumulation.

Recent and possible EC developments relating to ground water are also indicated. For example a Ministerial Seminar held at The Hague in late 1991 proposed an action programme to be prepared by the EC Commission by mid 1993 and to be implemented by 2000; the setting up of international expert groups and possible moves towards harmonizing the monitoring of groundwater.

New European legislation for the protection of ground water may be expected within the next few years. However, further EC action is likely to depend on more general questions relating to the role of the Community.

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