Last edited 23 Sep 2016

Water framework directive

Contents

[edit] Introduction

Water is a vital natural resource, essential for drinking, as a habitat for wildlife and for industry as well as its use for recreational activities. Many water resources are damaged or threatened and so their protection for a long-term, sustainable future is essential for our health and prosperity.

The 'Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy’ (Water Framework Directive or WFD) was adopted in October 2000 and came into force in December 2000. The main purpose of the directive was to protect all waters, including; rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater.

In 2001 a Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) for the WFD was agreed by the European Commission and Member States.

The Water Framework Directive is transposed into UK law through the following regulations:

  • The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003 (Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 3242) for England and Wales.
  • The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003.
  • The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (Statutory Rule 2003 No. 544) for Northern Ireland.

The UK Water Framework Directive policy group set up the UK Technical Advice Group UKTAG, a partnership of the UK environment and conservation agencies, to provide advice on the Directive.

[edit] Requirements

Member States were required by the Directive to prepare River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) by December 2009, to ensure all water systems and their associated terrestrial systems, reached ‘good status’ by 2015 and to achieve subsequent deadlines in 2021 and 2027. The Directive also set a target for water dependent protected areas (Natura 2000 sites) to meet their specific conservation objectives by 2015.

The UK regulations aim to provide a framework for achieving these requirements through the delivery of actions set out in River Basin Management Plans (RBMP). A river basin district is a group of catchments that contain rivers, lakes, groundwater reserves and coastal waters. River Basin Management Plans were produced for the 10 river basin districts in England and Wales for the period 2009-2015. New plans are being produced, and it is It is anticipated these plans will be implemented and reviewed every six years.

The assessment method to determine if a waterbody has reached ‘good status’ is measured against 30 different parameters which are grouped under two main headings:

  • Ecological status: a measure of a healthy and robust catchment ecosystem which is measured as high, good, moderate, poor or bad.
  • Chemical status: includes ‘priority substances’ such as mercury and benzene and is measured as ‘good’ or ‘fail’.

The lowest scoring element determines the waterbody’s overall status.

[edit] Progress update

To ensure the UK meets the requirements of the Directive, the Environment Agency monitor water bodies in England to determine whether they have reached the status of ‘good’. An annual report is produced which summarises their findings. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) undertake this role in Scotland, Natural Resources Wales in Wales and the Department of the Environment (DOE) in Northern Ireland.

In December 2011, the Government White Paper, ‘Water for Life’ reported that, "…we have many exquisite stretches of water ... but only 27% of our rivers and lakes are fully functioning ecosystems. Under EU law we have a legal imperative to make a substantial improvement to this figure by 2027. We also have a clear moral imperative, and an economic one."

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