Urban waste water


The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) (91/271/EEC) is designed to reduce the pollution of freshwater, estuarine and coastal waters by domestic sewage and industrial wastewater collectively known as urban waste water.

Minimum standards

The Directive sets minimum standards for the collection, treatment and discharge of urban waste water.  The minimum standards for the provision of sewerage systems and treatment of sewage are set by the Directive according to the population served by sewage treatment works, and the sensitivity of receiving waters.

The UWWTD is transposed in Northern Ireland by the Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007.

UWWTD Sensitive Area Review process

Member States are required under the UWWTD to review the trophic or nutrient status of all their water bodies (coastal, estuarine and freshwaters) every four years. Assessments for the review are carried out on the basis of scientific sensitive areas identification criteria and evidence.

Waters must be identified as a sensitive area if it falls into one of the following groups:-

  • surface water bodies which are found to be eutrophic or likely to become eutrophic if preventative action is not taken
  • surface fresh waters intended for the abstraction of drinking water which could contain 50 mg of nitrate per litre if action is not taken
  • areas where further treatment than secondary or equivalent treatment is necessary to meet other EC Directives such as the bathing or shellfish water directives

All waters draining the catchments of the sensitive receiving water are included in the sensitive area designations under the UWWTD.

Once an area has been identified as sensitive, qualifying WWTWs discharging either directly or indirectly into the sensitive area must have in place, within seven years, more stringent processes for the treatment of urban waste water.

Further information, including maps of the designated areas and previous sensitive area review reports can be accessed through links at the bottom of this page.

Designated areas

The existing Northern Ireland sensitive area identifications under the UWWTD are:-

  • Lough Neagh and Lough Erne and their catchment areas identified in 1994
  • Inner Belfast Lough, the Tidal Lagan, the Quoile Pondage and their catchment areas identification effective from 2001
  • Foyle River, River Roe, River Faughan, River Lagan, Lower Bann River, Enler River, River Bush, Newry River, North Strangford Lough, Newcastle bathing water and Paddy’s Point and Reagh Bay (formally known as Ardmillan Shellfish Water) and their catchment areas - identification effective from 28 July 2006
  • Ballyhome bathing water and catchment area - effective from 17 June 2011
  • Inner Dundrum Bay and catchment area - effective from in 1 August 2014
  • The Castletown Catchment and Newry River Transitional Water and Catchment waters - effective from 30 December 2015

Sensitive area review reports

Legal notices


All maps on this site are reproduced by permission of the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland on behalf of the controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) © 2012. Permit Number EMO.U206.2.

It is illegal to copy or publish digital data or paper maps, which belong to the Crown without prior written permission. Visit OSNI website for further information.

If you cannot download any of the documents or maps you can request hard copy versions by contacting Water Management Unit.

Article 16

Article 16 of the UWWTD requires Member States to periodically produce reports on the collection and treatment of urban waste water.
The 3rd edition of the UK’s Article 16 reports  is available on the European Information and Observation Network Website. Earlier Editions of the UK Article 16 reports can also be viewed at the website.


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