This article assesses the progress of the European Union’s Water Framework Directive from a legal and policy perspective. Emerging judgments from the Court of Justice of the European Union are providing new clarity, for example on cost recovery for water services and the application of the ‘no deterioration’ principle. The article reflects on transposition, especially in the uk; analyses several aspects that have been especially challenging, for policy-makers, regulators and water users; and identifies some missing elements. Challenges include the meaning of ‘good status’ and the derogations to achieving the same; the article will suggest that the derogations are needlessly complex, and that ‘good status’ as a binding obligation has had unintended consequences. Absent from the text currently is provision for drought, climate change and ecosystem services, and it concludes that each of these could usefully be part of the Commission’s review in 2019.