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Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive external site   (WFD) is an ambitious piece of European environmental legislation, which aims to improve and protect the water environment on a catchment scale. Its aims are to:

  • prevent deterioration and enhance status of aquatic ecosystems, including groundwater;
  • promote sustainable water use;
  • reduce pollution;
  • contribute to the mitigation of floods and droughts.

River Basin Management Plans

The WFD required the production of River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) by December 2009.  RBMPs are the means by which statutory objectives based on ecological assessments and economic judgments are set for Scottish waters.  The RBMPs cover all types of water body (such as rivers, lochs, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater) and:

  • describe the current condition of our water bodies;
  • identify where current or historic activities are reducing the quality of the water bodies;
  • describe the actions required to ensure our designated waters of especial value (for example, drinking waters, shellfish waters, bathing waters, and waters designated for their plants and animals) are up to required standards;
  • describe the actions needed to deliver environmental improvements over the next 6 years, and longer to 2027.

A network of Area Advisory Groups has been established around Scotland, to guide the achievement of WFD objectives on local basis. The membership of these groups includes both government and non-government organisations.  Scottish Natural Heritage is a member of all of the Area Advisory Groups, as well as the National Advisory Group, which oversees the delivery of WFD objectives on a national level.

WFD regulatory regimes

In June 2005, the Scottish Parliament approved the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Regulations (CAR) external site . The CAR regime represents controls over many activities that can affect the water environment.  CAR is a risk-based regulatory approach, where different levels of authorisation apply according to the risk to the water environment which an activity presents. This enables SEPA to concentrate its regulatory efforts where the risk to the water environment is greatest, without imposing heavy regulatory burdens on activities with low environmental risk. SNH has been working with SEPA and others to help simplify the interaction between CAR and other legislation.

Legislation has also been developed to cover the impacts of diffuse pollution external site , and the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 has been amended to ensure that authorities determining applications must consider WFD requirements.



Last updated on Friday 8th January 2016 at 14:58 PM. Click here to comment on this page