European policy consultants
Rural development and renewable energy

The Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is designed to improve and integrate the way water bodies are managed. In the UK, much of the implementation work will be undertaken by the Environment Agency.

The Directive came into force on 22 December 2000, and was transposed into UK law in 2003. It requires Member States to aim to reach good chemical and ecological status in inland and coastal waters by 2015, subject to certain limited exceptions.

It is designed to:
• enhance the status and prevent further deterioration of aquatic ecosystems and associated wetlands which depend on them;
• promote the sustainable use of water;
• reduce pollution of water, especially by ‘priority’ and ‘priority hazardous’ substances; and
• ensure progressive reduction of groundwater pollution;

The WFD establishes a strategic framework for managing the water environment, and requires a management plan for each river basin to be developed every 6 years. The plans are based on a detailed analysis of the impacts of human activity on the water environment and incorporate a programme of measures to improve water bodies where required.

In December 2009 the Environment Agency published the first set of River Basin Management Plans for England and Wales.

In April 2011 Defra announced additional funding to help deliver WFD objectives over the four years from 2011-2015. The funding will be used for a range of projects such as habitat improvements e.g. removing redundant structures which prevent fish migration, and tackling water pollution issues.

Part of the additional funding has been used to establish a Catchment Restoration Fund (CRF), for England only, which runs initially for three years from 2012/13. This makes a significant amount of the overall funding open to bids from third sector organisations.

In February 2012, Defra announced a £28 million fund to clean up England’s rivers and encourage local wildlife to flourish. Applications should be submitted to the Environment Agency.

The report found that, despite agriculture being identified as a 'significant pressure', no new mandatory measures have been agreed in the plans, and reliance is placed on voluntary measures. The reports expressed concern that there appear to be no new additional measures to adress diffuse pollution from agriculture, which was identified as a major pressure.

The main pollutants causing failure of good status in England and Wales are Copper, Zinc, Ammonia, Cypermethrine and total Phosphate. Phosphate affects the highest numbers of rivers, causing pollution in between 10 and 67% in each river basin district (RBD), while other pollutants generally affect lower numbers, up to 25% of RBDs.

Implementation report on UK (November 2012):

The WFD: