The Water Framework Directive was agreed by all individual EU member states in 2000, and its first cycle ran from 2009-2015. The Directive runs in 6 year cycles, so the 2nd Cycle runs from 2016-2021.
Having one Framework for water quality for all of the 4,933 waterbodies in Ireland, and all the others across Europe, allows us to compare our results, and see what works to help us make sure all our surface and ground water achieves at least Good Status, and no deterioration occurs.
Rivers, lakes, coastal and transitional water can all have 5 statuses:
Groundwater has just 2 statuses – Good and Poor.
Status is assessed under the following headings:
- Biological Quality
- Benthic Invertebrates (These are small animals that live at the bottom of a waterbody or in sediment, and have no backbone)
- Aquatic Plants
- Hydromorphological Quality – this is how a river flows, and can be affected by river bank structure, river continuity, or the substrate of the river bed.
- Physical-chemical quality such as temperature, oxygenation and nutrient conditions
- Chemical quality for specific pollutants
Assessing Status – one out, all out
An important point to note is that the rule when assessing the above is one out, all out so if a water body is at Good status in 3 of the above categories, but Poor in the 4th, the entire waterbody is judged to be Low it is the lowest result that determines status.
A key part of the Water Framework Directive is Article 14, which requires all member states to genuinely engage with the people who live, work and play in a catchment. To do this, it is important to understand how local communities live in their catchments and use their water. Therefore, it is critical that local communities are involved in management and decision making related to protecting and, where necessary, improving their water resources.
Ultimately, meeting the sometimes narrow objectives of the WFD is not the aim – helping communities protect and improve a beautiful and diverse landscape with accessible healthy waterways that are productively used to support livelihoods, habitats and rich wildlife is the goal. However, the WFD can be a powerful tool to help in achieving this goal.