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In response to the increasing threat of pollution and the increasing demand from the public for cleaner rivers, lakes and beaches, the EU developed the Water Framework Directive (WFD). This Directive is unique in that, for the first time, it establishes a framework for the protection of all waters including rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater, and their dependent wildlife/habitats under one piece of environmental legislation. Specifically the WFD aims to:
The Water Framework Directive is linked to a number of other EU directives in several ways. These include Directives relating to the protection of biodiversity (Birds and Habitats Directives), directives related to specific uses of waters (drinking water, bathing waters and urban waste water directives) and to directives concerned with the regulation of activities undertaken in the environment (Industrial Emissions and Environmental Impact Assessment directives). More recent directives on topics such as Floods and the Marine Strategy Framework have significant linkages with the WFD which is also supplemented by the Priority Substances Directive and the Groundwater Directive. The Nitrates Directive forms an integral part of the Water Framework Directive and is one of the key instruments in the protection of waters against agricultural pressures. The Sustainable Use ofPesticides and the Sewage Sludge Directives also provide for the control of materials applied to land.
Figure 1: WFD Interaction with other EU Legislation (Source: SWMI, 2015)
The “basic measures” required by Article 11 of the WFD include implementation of measures required by the following directives: Bathing Water, Habitats, Birds, Drinking Water, Major Accidents (Seveso), EIA, Sewage Sludge, UWWT, Plant Protection Products, Nitrates and IPPC.
The WFD has been transposed into Irish law by means of the following main Regulations. These Regulations cover governance, the shape of the WFD characterisation, monitoring and status assessment programmes in terms of assigning responsibilities for the monitoring of different water categories, determining the quality elements and undertaking the characterisation and classification assessments.
First Cycle: During the first cycle of the WFD, the EPA was 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. This 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.
Second Cycle: These tasks have been extended during the second cycle to include drafting environmental objectives, undertaking catchment characterisation, preparing template river basin management plans and compiling common programme of measures for further development and input by local authorities and finalisation and approval by the Minister for the Environment.
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.
You can find further information about the results in the EPA's Water Publications and Reports.
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