- Third Annual Report to Parliament released
- Consequential Amendments
- Environmental Quality Standards Consultation published
- Objective Setting in River Basin Management Planning Draft Policy Statement published
The Water Framework Directive will ensure that for the first time the water environment across Europe is managed in a co-ordinated and sensible manner. Moreover, it requires that all activities that impact adversely on the quality (using quality in its widest sense) of the water environment are controlled. Our rivers and lochs are the lifeblood of our communities - the Water Framework Directive will ensure their continued good health for future generations.
The majority of Scotland 's rivers, lochs, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwaters are of high quality. However, there is a range of uses and users of our waters which could affect this quality, and these uses have a value to Scotland . For example our water environment provides sources of drinking water, important habitats for many birds, fish and other animals, an important resource for many industries, and a focus for leisure, recreation and tourism.The Water Framework Directive allows us to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the water environment and protecting the use of that environment.
The Water Framework Directive is not restricted to what happens on or in water. The quality of any river, body of groundwater or other body of water will be determined not just by what happens within its banks but also by what happens on the land around it. A spill of polluting material - e.g. oil - quite remote from a river may well find its way there with devastating environmental consequences. The construction of a housing development on a flood plain may create exacerbated flooding problems downstream. For that reason, the scope of the WFD is not restricted to rivers or lochs or coastal waters but requires consideration of any human intervention that could affect the quality of water, wherever that intervention takes place.
This means we need to manage our water environment based on natural river basins. A river basin is an area of land from which water flows towards the sea and enters it at a single point. Sometimes known as catchments, these river basins are the building blocks of the WFD, and can be managed individually or combined together with other catchments. The river basin approach takes into account that an activity upstream in a basin might have an effect further downstream in other water bodies and allows us to manage such effects. River basins include ground water bodies, which can also be affected by activities in the rest of the basin.
For each River Basin District (a single catchment or number of them combined) a strategic management plan must be drawn up. This plan will establish an environmental objective - a quality target - for each water body. The Directive sets a default objective of 'good' status - although variations from that are allowed based on social or economic considerations. It also requires that no deterioration in status be allowed - a provision that will be particularly applicable to the already good condition of much of Scotland 's waters - although again here derogations are allowed in certain circumstances.
These environmental objectives are based on ecology, so the plant and animal life in our natural waters will become the principal indicators of success at protecting and improving the water environment. Both chemical and physical conditions must be right for them to flourish.
Finally, the plan will detail how the objectives we have set will be achieved, for example through regulatory controls (link to CAR page) or local initiatives. Once the plan has been established, the next stage in the process is comprehensive monitoring to check that the objectives have been met. Thereafter, the process of planning, action and monitoring starts again.
The following pages will go into more detail on the Directive itself and on its implementation in Scotland .