The objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) are to protect all high status waters, prevent further deterioration of all waters and to restore degraded surface and ground waters to good status by 2015. A major programme is under way to achieve this ambitious target.
The EPA has been assigned a large number of tasks under the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations, 2003 (S.I. No. 722 of 2003), which come under the category of “coordination and oversight” of the Irish WFD programme. De facto, this has meant that the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) has delegated the task of national coordination of all the technical aspects of the WFD to the EPA, while retaining ownership of the economic and policy aspects of the Directive.
The EPA helped the RBDs delineate the WFD water management units (water bodies) and in the characterisation of significant pressures within these water bodies that could impact on water resources.
The EPA took responsibility for the establishment of programmes for the monitoring of water status in order to establish a comprehensive overview of water status within each RBD. In October 2006, the EPA published the WFD Monitoring Programme, which assigned tasks to the EPA, Local Authorities, Marine Institute and IFI, on the basis of their existing competencies. Subsequently, the EPA negotiated with the Marine Institute and with two Government Departments to secure the resources for the Marine Institute to carry out its monitoring role, starting in 2011. The EPA advised the DECLG on the development of environmental standards and the water body classification criteria that were included in the respective Surface Water (S.I. No. 272 of 2009) and Groundwater (S.I. No. 9 of 2010) Regulations. The EPA also classified the status of water bodies through an assessment of monitoring data against the standards and criteria identified in the respective Regulations. This assessment acted as the cornerstone of the River Basin Management Plans that were produced for each RBD.
The EPA implements this Article through the licensing function, which is led by the OCLR team.
Article 11 – Programme of Measures The EPA was requested by DECLG to create a national data management system and to compile a report on the implementation of measures to prevent deterioration of surface water and groundwater.
The lead role on implementing this article in the first cycle of implementing the WFD was assigned to the RBDs and the first round of plans were prepared in 2009. The main EPA role was to provide each RBD with classification assessments for water bodies and to advise the Minister on the amendments, if any, which the EPA considers ought to be made to the plan(s). Based on the EPA assessment, the DECLG has initiated a review of WFD governance for subsequent WFD cycles.
The EPA has taken a lead role in reporting on behalf of Ireland to the EU Commission and to the European Environment Agency (EEA) on implementation of WFD tasks, and has delivered in full on the national commitments in this area. This has been a key deliverable in terms of meeting the statutory objectives of the WFD programme. In addition to the technical roles assigned to the EPA under the Regulations, the EPA also coordinates the activities of the River Basin Districts, Local Authorities and State Agencies in implementing the Directive. It also facilitates and carries out necessary research and participates at National and International meetings in relation to the Directive.
Water Framework Directive Cycle ImageThe WFD River Basin Management Planning Cycle
Groundwater, rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters are the four water categories of the aquatic monitoring and assessment programme that the EPA and Ireland report on when assessing whether the environmental objectives of the WFD are being met. Monitoring and assessment of water body status are an integral part of the management strategy for water to meet the WFDs objectives. The first official WFD Monitoring Programme became operational on 22 December 2006. A current overview of status for monitored waterbodies was published by the EPA in 2011.