This paper seeks to address the lack of knowledge in the water industry of how policy development can be understood to have shaped the development and application of European Union (EU) drinking water policy. In particular, the paper develops a comparative understanding of how policy development can be viewed as having affected the development and application of the Drinking Water Directive (80/778/EEC) in England/Wales and the Republic of Ireland. As a result of this focus, the paper explores policy development issues relating to conflicting interests, invalid causal theories, political symbolism, lack of attention to detail by policy makers, and the allocation of duties and resources. It is subsequently established that consideration of these issues is useful in fostering a focused understanding of how policy development may have affected policy application. Despite the significant changes which took place with regard to the development of the current Drinking Water Directive (98/883/EC), the paper concludes by arguing that greater attention should be accorded the conflicting interests and abilities of Member States during the development of EU water policy, particularly if attempts are to be made to identify measures targeted at improving the application of EU water policy in a diverse political and economic union of member states.

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