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Characterisation of water bodies is a critical element of the work required under the Water Framework Directive. It sets the scene for where the water resources are and how they function in the landscape, and provides the understanding of how they are impacted by the pressures caused by human activities. The outcome of characterisation is the identification of water bodies at risk of not meeting their WFD objectives. Article 5 of the WFD, supported by Annex II which contains some of the required detail, identifies three components in the characterisation of water bodies:
Programmes of measures are implemented in those water bodies identified as being at risk, and monitoring programmes are designed to assess whether the measures are effective. The characterisation process is therefore a major driver in designing appropriate monitoring networks and implementing measures. Measures have to be cost effective so the economic analyses, as well as other factors such as the beneficial uses of the water resources, help to prioritise the measures. The effectiveness of the measures is checked using the monitoring data, incorporating various metrics such as status, trends and capacityassessments, which are then fed back into the next characterisation cycle. Figure 1 provides a summary of the process.
Figure 1: Characterisation in the WFD Framework
Nationally, we are required to deliver a River Basin Management Plan in 2017. To do this, we must first characterise our water bodies. This allows us to then develop mitigation measures targeted at restoring and/or protecting our water bodies that are at risk of not being at good status. There are three steps in the characterisation process:
The characterisation process informs the selection of the programme of measures. The involvement and cooperation of local communities, local authorities, and government/public bodies will be essential to ensure that the measures implemented are successful in improving our water resources.
You can find out more in An approach to characterisation as part of implementation of the Water Framework Directive (May 2015)
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