The Water Framework Directive, Assessment, Participation and Protected Areas: What are the Relationships? (WAPPA)

Final Report (W. Sheate & S. Bennett)

Summary: Final report from the ERTDI-funded project 2005-W-DS-24-M1 (W. Sheate & S. Bennett), SEA, WFD, EPA

Published: 2007

Pages: 126

Filesize: 1,831 KB

Format: pdf


The Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC has significant interconnections and linkages with other EU legislation. The focus of this study was on the similarities and overlaps between the WFD and the Environmental Assessment directives (Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] – 85/337/EEC as amended by 97/11/EC and 2003/35/EC, and Strategic Environmental Assessment [SEA] – 2001/42/EC), Public Participation directive (2003/35/EC), and the Birds (79/409/EEC) and Habitats (92/43/EC) directives. The aim of the study was to examine the extent and nature of potential overlaps of the WFD with the Birds, Habitats, Public Participation, EIA and SEA directives within River Basin Districts (RBDs) in Ireland. Specific objectives were to:

  • clarify the legal relationship between the six directives;
  • identify situations where overlaps are possible;
  • describe in detail selected case studies of potential overlaps within RBDs in Ireland; and
  • make recommendations for resolving any problems which emerge.

The research was undertaken primarily from January to July 2006 and included an extensive literature review, a review of relevant case law, detailed textual and legal analysis of the directives, an email survey of stakeholders and detailed analysis of three case studies. The WFD provided the focus for the textual analysis of the six directives and its linkages with the other directives. The key links between the WFD and the other directives relate, for example, to their objectives to integrate the environment into decision-making, forms of assessment required, and public involvement in decision-making. Three case studies were selected (Greater Dublin Water Supply, Lough Corrib, and international RBDs with Northern Ireland, UK), each with the potential to highlight different sets of interactions between the WFD and the other directives.

Most significant among the interactions identified was the potential for overlap in assessment between the WFD and SEA. All river basin management plans (RBMPs) and programmes of measure (POMs) will need to be screened for SEA, but prima facie both would appear to have the potential to meet the SEA directive criteria. The view from this research is that both RBMPs and POMs should be subject to the SEA directive, recognising that each will need to assess different issues at their respective levels. The consultation requirements on the RBMPs are quite demanding and consultation strategies need to be put in place well in advance of drafting the RBMPs/POMs. SEA can help facilitate this, for example through consultation on the environmental report at the same time as the draft RBMP/POMs. There is a need for consistent methods of involving ‘interested parties’ across the RBDs and for good coordination between authorities managing RBDs.

The potential interactions between RBMPs and county development plans (CDPs) are numerous and potentially far reaching. The exact nature of the relationship will depend upon the types of developments that are likely to emerge out of the RBMP/POMs process that are of sufficient importance to influence CDPs; and those that are likely to arise through the development planning process and have significant influence upon the RBMP/POMs process. SEAs and EIAs may be triggered by RBMPs/POMs and CDPs, amendments to these plans and via significant infrastructure projects, creating the potential for overlaps, duplication and synergy between different levels of assessment.

The WFD has the potential to complement the Habitats and Birds directives in improving the ecological status of aquatic Natura 2000 sites (the European ecological network of special areas of conservation). However, both RBMPs and POMs will need to be screened for appropriate assessment (AA) under the Habitats directive on a case-by-case basis as to whether they might have adverse effects on the integrity of a designated site. Guidance will also be needed on how AA should interact with SEA and EIA where these are undertaken for RBMPs, POMs and projects. From this research it is clear that data issues remain uppermost in terms of the challenges faced by RBDs and conservation bodies implementing the Birds and Habitats directives.

Baseline data from different processes, particularly in relation to conservation, need to be improved as a matter of urgency – both in terms of quality of data gathered and their availability.

Finally, although not considered in detail in this research (given its draft status) the proposed EU Floods directive provides a further example where potential overlap may occur with the WFD, and will warrant further study once it has been finalised.

Follow this link to view the associated documentation on our SAFER database