Catchment News

Water Framework Directive Guidance on Characterisation Methodology V4.0 – September 2016

| in
Water Framework Directive Guidance on Characterisation Methodology V4.0 - September 2016

Total Files1
Size2.25 MB
Create Date11th October 2016
Last Updated

The purpose of this report is to describe:

  1. the role of characterisation in water resources management in Ireland and
  2. the approach taken to characterising water bodies, subcatchments and catchments.

More extensive information is available in the various publications and guidance documents listed in the References (Section 5).

Background and Context

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is a major piece of EU legislation designed to protect, preserve and improve the aquatic environment whilst encouraging the sustainable use of water. Characterisation of water bodies is a critical element of the work required under the Directive. It sets the scene for where the water resources are and how they function in the landscape, and provides the understanding of how they are impacted by the pressures caused by human activities. The outcome of characterisation is the identification of water bodies at risk of not meeting their WFD objectives. Article 5 of the WFD, supported by Annex II which contains some of the required detail, identifies three components in the characterisation of water bodies:
(a) an analysis of its physical characteristics, i.e., the physical information that describes the water bodies including water body boundaries, typologies, reference conditions, the geology and hydrogeology of groundwater bodies including the nature of the overlying strata, linked groundwater and surface water systems, etc.
(b) a review of the impact of human activity on the status of surface waters and groundwater, and
(c) an economic analysis of water use.
The WFD requires each Member State to have in place a programme of measures in order to achieve the objectives of the WFD (Article 11). Measures are required to ensure protection of existing satisfactory water resources and improvement of unsatisfactory water resources, with the latter often requiring additional supplementary measures. Monitoring programmes are designed to assess whether the measures are effective. The characterisation process is therefore a major driver in designing appropriate monitoring networks and in implementing measures.
Integrated catchment management (ICM) is a framework to facilitate different ways of working towards a better water environment. It has become the agreed approach to achieving WFD objectives and the sustainable use of water and land resources (DECLG, 2015). ICM involves a series of interconnected steps (see Table 1): i) building partnerships; ii) creating and communicating a vision of ICM; iii) characterising the physical, hydrochemical and ecological components; iv) identifying and evaluating possible management strategies and measures; v) designing an implementation programme; and vi) implementing the programme and making adjustments, if necessary.


WFD Characterisation GuidanceV4.pdf  Download  


Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures to protect and restore our waters.