The Water Framework Directive

The problems and threats facing our rivers have been recognized at a European level by the Water Framework Directive.

This is a piece of European legislation which became UK law in 2003. It states that all waterbodies (including rivers, lakes, seas and groundwater sources) in the UK must reach good ecological status by 2027. ‘Good ecological status’ means they should be clean and healthy, and contain the right type and number of animals and plants. The UK has a legal obligation to meet this target.

Rivers can be classified as Bad, Poor, Moderate, Good or High. Various categories of things are measured to assess their status:

  • fish;
  • invertebrates;
  • diatoms – microscopic plants and animals living in the water;
  • aquatic plants;
  • the amount of water in the river (i.e. flow);
  • the quality of the water (i.e. pollution).

The Water Framework Directive is the driver for much of the work being done in the UK’s catchments, including our own Upper & Bedford Ouse Catchment Management Plan.