Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), as amended by Directives 2008/105/EC, 2013/39/EU and 2014/101/EU, established a new integrated approach to the protection of the water environment. The Directive is transposed in Northern Ireland through the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017.

Aims of the Directive

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) introduced a holistic approach to the management of water quality, and requires the protection and improvement of all aspects of the water environment including rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater.

The Directive places a responsibility on Member States to try and ensure that all inland and coastal waters reach at least “good status” (or good ecological potential for artificial or heavily modified water bodies). The Directive uses five status classifications for normal waterbodies: High, Good, Moderate, Poor and Bad and allows for extended deadlines or less stringent objectives to be set for water bodies, should certain conditions be met. 

To achieve the target of reaching good status or above, Member States are required to implement management planning at river basin level, linking with other key policy areas such as agriculture, land use, biodiversity, tourism, recreation and flood protection.  This is done through the publication of river basin management plans (RBMPs) which set out a programme of measures to be implemented over six-year cycles aimed at improving the status of waterbodies.

The 2015-2021 RBMPs can be viewed at river basin management.

More useful links

The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), as amended by Directives 2008/105/EC, 2013/39/EU and 2014/101/EU, established a new integrated approach to the protection of the water environment. The Directive is transposed in Northern Ireland through the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017.
Directive 2013/39/EU is transposed through The Water Framework Directive (Classification, Priority Substances and Shellfish Waters) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015.

Related Directives

As a framework Directive, achieving the objectives of the WFD relies heavily on the successful implementation and achievement of the requirements of other key European Water Directives. These include:-

Two ‘daughter’ Directives of the Water Framework Directive, relating to the protection of groundwater and the reduction of pollution caused by priority substances, have further identified specific requirements which also apply in Northern Ireland:

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