Ecological status assessment of watercourses is based on the calculation of quality indices using pollution sensitivity of targeted biological groups, including diatoms. The determination and quantification of diatom species is generally based on microscopic morphological identification, which requires expertise and is time-consuming and costly. In Europe, this morphological approach is legally imposed by standards and regulatory decrees by the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Over the past decade, a DNA-based molecular biology approach has newly been developed to identify species based on genetic criteria rather than morphological ones (i.e. DNA metabarcoding). In combination with high throughput sequencing technologies, metabarcoding makes it possible both to identify all species present in an environmental sample and to process several hundred samples in parallel. This article presents the results of two recent studies carried out on the WFD networks of rivers of Mayotte (2013–2018) and metropolitan France (2016–2018). These studies aimed at testing the potential application of metabarcoding for biomonitoring in the context of the WFD. We discuss the various methodological developments and optimisations that have been made to make the taxonomic inventories of diatoms produced by metabarcoding more reliable, particularly in terms of species quantification. We present the results of the application of this DNA approach on more than 500 river sites, comparing them with those obtained using the standardised morphological method. Finally, we discuss the potential of metabarcoding for routine application, its limits of application and propose some recommendations for future implementation in WFD.