Water framework directive (WFD)

What is the issue?

WFD is a European Directive whose main objective is to achieve good ecological status in all our rivers and lakes - as measured in terms of fish, invertebrates, plants and diatoms; plus, all the factors that affect them, such as water flow, pollution levels etc. The original target date was 2015, but this has now been derogated out to 2027, with three cycles - the present-2015, 2015-21 and 2021-27. If Government can be persuaded to embrace the ethos of the Directive with political commitment and resources, it provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to restore and protect our rivers and stillwaters at a genuinely high ecological status for generations to come. The Directive also calls for widespread community involvement in achieving its objectives

What S&TCUK has achieved so far

  • S&TCUK has been involved in the stakeholder process right from the start of WFD planning and delivery in the UK.
  • S&TCUK staff sit on Defra's Water Stakeholder Forum and the EA's WFD National Liaison Panel
  • S&TCUK is one of the founder members of the Blueprint for Water team (now under the aegis of Wildlife & Countryside Link, of which we are a full member) which set out a 10 point ask of Government for the future management of water and the aquatic environment. Janina Gray, S&TCUK Head of Science, is Vice Chair of Link's Water Group and led on the rewrite of 2 'asks' during the recent Blueprint update
  • S&TCUK staff have an input to all the major issues under the WFD umbrella - eg Janina Gray represents fisheries science on both the EA's Hydropower Technical and Steering Groups
  • S&TCUK is involved in scientific projects aimed at informing WFD delivery, including university-based research involving sex-changing chemicals in river water and, salmon and brown trout genetics, and large scale field projects researching sediment impact on river systems and sources of sediment input
  • S&TCUK supports Janina Gray's PhD into the effect of water flows on migrating salmonids

What still needs to be done?

  • S&TCUK is in an excellent position to keep fisheries issues central to WFD delivery - vital as fish are one of the four criteria for ecological health in rivers and lakes
  • S&TCUK is pressing for WFD to be delivered at river system level, with measures incorporated within Catchment Management Plans. Government departments and agencies have traditionally operated within silos, with little joined up approach to water management, and we are now lobbying ministers and senior civil servants for a much higher level of integration in the way they approach WFD delivery
  • Of the many issues under the WFD umbrella, our major focus at present is on:
  • closing down damaging water abstraction licenses
  • badly sited hydropower schemes
  • barriers to fish migration
  • sediment and chemical residues emanating from poor land management
  • restoration of degraded river and lake habitat to enhance natural production of fish, invertebrates and all other water dependent wildlife