Revelers at Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest beer festival are being warned their favourite drink could soon look, smell, and taste rather less appealing.

To make good beer you need clean water, but environmental groups have warned that fresh water supplies across Europe – and the future of beer – is at risk because EU water protection laws are being ignored.

100 environmental NGOs and angling groups have launched a ‘Protect Water’ campaign to save the EU’s Water Framework Directive.

The Water Framework Directive protects all sources of Europe’s water, such as rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater. It is currently threatened by the European Commission’s drive to reduce regulations.

Some argue that EU rules put too much of a burden on businesses. But brewers say that that their ability to produce good quality beer relies on the protection and sustainable management of Europe’s water sources. Companies including Csupor and Slovakia’s Association of Small Independent Breweries have called for EU water laws to be kept intact and outlined their concerns about the future quality of water in Europe.

Freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened on the planet and the Protect Water campaign hopes its boozy message will draw attention to the fact that 60% of EU waters are not in good shape. The campaign’s backers say EU governments have failed to protect Europe’s waters and are not on track to meet the Water Framework Directive’s goal of healthy ‘good status’ for Europe’s waters by 2027.

In its latest water assessment, the European Environment Agency (EEA) stated that pressures such as pollution from agriculture and industry, over-abstraction, and hydropower have all rendered the majority of Europe’s rivers, lakes and surface water bodies unable to adequately support wildlife and provide vital flood protection.

But examples from across the EU show that where political will exists, the EU’s water law is effective in developing and putting in place actions to bring life back to our rivers, lakes and wetlands.

The Protect Water campaign is led by the Living Rivers Europe coalition made up of WWF, the European Environmental Bureau, European Anglers Alliance, European Rivers Network and Wetlands International.

Sergiy Moroz, Senior Policy Officer for Water and Biodiversity for the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:

The EU has world-leading water protection laws that are up to the job of protecting freshwater ecosystems from pressures such as the impact of hydropower and pollution and over-abstraction from agriculture and industry. But, shockingly, the political will from EU governments to use them is lacking. It is unacceptable that instead of trying to improve the health of our rivers and lakes EU governments are discussing how to weaken vital protection for our waters.

The Protect Water campaign is urging members of the public to send a strong message in support of EU water laws through a special ‘e-action’ platform that allows anyone to take part in the Commission’s public consultation on the water laws, which runs as part of the evaluation until 4 March 2019.

Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at WWF’s European Policy Office said:

“Member States’ half-hearted implementation of the EU water law is a crime in itself, but their desperate attempts to weaken it – and before the Commission’s fitness check has even concluded – is a step too far. We urge citizens across Europe and beyond to join forces through the #ProtectWater campaign and make their voices heard. We all need clean water, and without the WFD, this will be under serious threat. Act now to defend the EU water law!”

Mark Owen of the European Anglers Alliance said:

“Europe’s rivers and lakes are dying under our eyes and, through the beer imagery, we want to open citizens’ eyes to their unacceptable deterioration and compel them to take action. Only a bad workman blames his tools. There is no doubt that the WFD is the right tool to protect and restore Europe’s waters, and that Member States are the clear culprits: for the best part of two decades, they have relentlessly doged their commitments and avoided effective delivery on the legally binding objectives.”