How can I participate?
The Directive recognises that for implementation to be successful, effective public participation and consultation will be essential. To keep updated on emerging work and the opportunity to comment on UKTAG’s work then join our mailing list. Also check out our ‘stakeholder’ pages to keep up to date with UK TAG work. You can also look at our ‘about us’ page which gives links to the UK environment agencies’ water pages. You can then link to their river basin planning pages to see how you can get involved in your river basin district.
What are the benefits of the WFD?
Implementation of the WFD will provide numerous environmental, social and economic benefits:
- Improved protection and enhancement of the water environment leading to cleaner and healthier rivers, lochs, estuaries and coastal waters
- Promotion of more efficient uses of water to reduce pressure on the water environment
- Effective and more sustainable water management
- Increased opportunities for getting involved and influencing how the water environment is managed
- Improvement in the quality of information available about UK’s water environment and how it is managed
- Safeguards the water environment for sustainable use and enjoyment
- Delivers a proportionate and cost-effective approach to water protection and improvement that will avoid unnecessary administrative and financial burdens being placed on industry and other water users
- Enables the right balance to be struck between social, economic and environmental considerations in setting environmental objectives
- Enhances UK’s overall environmental reputation
How will the management of the water environment change?
The Directive relates not only to the standards of water protection but also to how water is managed. The introduction of a transparent and participative river basin management planning (RBMP) system will provide a framework within which targets, actions, priorities, costs and benefits of environmental change are all taken into account. This will allow environmental needs to be balanced with social and economic needs. The first step in RBMP is to characterise the River Basin Districts. This was completed in 2004 and the Pressures & Impacts and Economic Analysis – can be found on the different environment agency websites.
When will all of this happen?
River Basin Management Planning (RBMP) is an ongoing process with RBM Plans being reviewed and updated every six years. The timetable for the delivery of the WFD for the first River Basin Planning cycle is listed below.
All dates refer to the 22 December unless otherwise stated.
2000 Water Framework Directive entered into force
2003 Transposition in national legislation
2004 Characterisation of river basin: pressures, impacts and economic analysis
2006 Establishment of monitoring network
2008 Present draft river basin management plans
2009 Finalise river basin management plans including the progamme of measures
2010 Introduce pricing policies
2012 Make operational the programmes of measures
2015 Meet environmental objectives
First river basin management cycle ends
Second river basin management plan & first flood risk management plan
2021 Second management cycle ends
2027 Third management cycle ends, final deadline for meeting objectives
What are Environmental Quality Standards?
Environmental Quality Standards (EQS's) are levels that are used to assess the risk of chemical pollutant effects on water quality to the health of aquatic plants and animals. The method for deriving EQSs is set out in the WFD (Annex V) and involves the testing of the toxicity of the substance on aquatic biology.
The UK has existing EQSs for many of these substances, although work is required to ensure their derivation is compliant with the WFD methodology. EQSs for priority and priority hazardous substances will be set at a European level.
What is the difference between Specific Pollutants and Priority Substances?
The Directive requires that all Member States undertake the management of chemical pollutants through a combination of Environmental Quality Standards (EQS's) and emission controls. The UK is responsible for developing Environmental Quality Standards (EQS's) for Specific Pollutants to support the aim of achieving "good status" by 2015 under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).
Specific polluting substances are part of the classification of “good ecological status”. The EQSs for Priority Substances and Priority Hazardous Substances are contained in an EU Daughter Directive. Member states will not need to develop standards for these compounds, unless the daughter directive proposal is not agreed. Compliance with EQSs for Priority and Priority Hazardous Substances provides the basis for "good chemical status" classification.
What is the UK doing to develop EQSs for Specific Pollutants?
The UK is responsible for developing standards (EQSs) for Specific Pollutants according to the procedure set out in the WFD. A programme has therefore been set in place to identify, prioritise and review the EQSs for those substances identified as potential Specific Pollutants. These include substances commonly encountered when issuing environmental permits or consents as well as substances listed under earlier EU Directives such as List II under the Dangerous Substances Directive, where the UK has developed standards in the past, together with other emerging chemicals of concern.
Where required, new EQS's will be developed, based on best current knowledge, in compliance with the requirements specified in the Directive. When EQSs for these substances are adopted, the UK agencies will then need to ensure that these substances are managed under any programme of measures where a risk has been identified to the water body. This includes controlling inputs from point and diffuse sources and from accidental spills.
What is the list of substances the UK is identifying as Specific Pollutants?
Specific polluting substances are listed in Annex V of the Water Framework Directive as one of the physio-chemical quality elements that form part of the classification of "good ecological status". Annex VII list the generic groups of substances that should be considered as possible Specific Pollutants. There are many substances that may be considered as potential specific pollutants. The UK Technical Advisory Group identified an initial list of 311 substances for consideration. This list was then prioritised using a scheme based upon that used under EU Existing Substances Regulations.
This considers the hazard and exposure for each substance to provide a ranking between 1 and 5. Substances that attracted a ranking of 1 or 2 were then considered further as candidate specific pollutants. This list includes some existing List II substances, controlled under the Dangerous Substances Directive, but not included in the Priority List, for which there are existing statutory standards; and other substances for which there is no UK standard but that are recognised on the basis of effect and level of exposure as posing a risk to UK waters. The latter brings in substances that are most frequently in need of control in permits, and therefore viewed as potentially having widespread risk and “discharged to water in significant quantities”.
In addition, the risk assessment process has identified some other substances such as cypermethrin, that are known to present a considerable threat to water quality where we believe urgent action is necessary. We will therefore take action to address such concerns where they are viewed as important across the UK.
How will the standards for specific pollutants be used under the Water Framework Directive?
Specific pollutant standards form one component of the physico-chemical parameters used to classify ecological status for a water body, which will be reported in River Basin Management Plans. However, the development of new standards is both time consuming and costly. Therefore, it is possible that the environment agencies may have identified in the Article 5 characterisation report, a substance that could put a water body at risk of failing its objectives, but where no standard has yet been developed under WFD. In any such case, the agencies would consider management of the effects of that substance as part of the programme of measures and draw on the relevant standard from existing legislation such as the Dangerous Substance Directive as an interim measure, until a new standard can be derived. This will ensure that the UK meets its obligations under existing legislation to prevent deterioration of the ecosystem concerned. Additional work will then be commissioned to enable a new standard to be developed.
When will EQSs be available for Priority Substances?
The European Commission formally adopted a proposal for a priority substances daughter Directive of the WFD in July 2006 (this proposal was originally expected in December 2003). It contains Environmental Quality Standards (EQSs) for the 33 priority substances to apply across the whole of the EU. The proposal will not come immediately into force - it must be formally negotiated, discussed and agreed under the “Co-decision” process involving both the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
The WFD sets a default date of December 2006 after which, if a proposed Directive has not been agreed, Member States shall establish their own EQSs for priority substances. The Commission, mindful of the delay to this proposal, has however advised member States that while the proposal remains the subject of formal negotiation, this default date will not be enforced.
What are other Member States doing to develop standards for Specific Pollutants?
Other Member States are also developing approaches to applying Good Ecological Status. They are also developing their standards and supporting legislative regimes for Specific Pollutants. The UK is contributing to the European Common Implementation Strategy. This is setting out guidance for Priority Hazardous Substances, including how the standards are set, and how they are monitored. We are ensuring that the same principles are adopted, where appropriate, for our proposals for Specific Pollutants.
There is a long history in Europe of developing standards for polluting substances and assessing the toxicology and potential impact on ecology. As part of the data collection process for the proposed UK standards, we have collated datasets from across the UK, Europe and beyond. We have verified these data to ensure an acceptable level of quality, validation and reporting before drawing any conclusions. In addition we have assembled a panel of noted experts to provide a thorough peer review of the approach taken.
Because of our involvement in the Common Implementation Strategy, we have been able to take account of emerging European views. Other Member States are identifying substances that are important to them. We have already established informal liaison with several European partners and will seek to maintain this dialogue to confirm that our approaches are comparable. We anticipate that by the end of 2007, we will be able to compare our work with other Member States
Why are some new standards for Specific Pollutants proposed by UKTAG more precautionary?
Where the standards proposed are more stringent, this may be because, there is new toxicological data available that provides evidence that a tighter standard is necessary to protect sensitive species. However the European method also allows for the application for safety factors when setting a standard to address circumstances where our current level of scientific understanding may be lacking. This approach is designed to safeguard the environment and still enable a standard to be set. UKTAG has recommended that where there is not sufficient evidence to justify a high safety factor and where there is unlikely to be improvement in scientific knowledge, we use an existing standard under DSD as an interim value. We have undertaken a review of substances where such concerns exist and identified a number of toxicological studies that would improve our understanding and facilitate the calculation of a more precise safety factor. Subject to the availability of sufficient funding we will endeavour to undertake this work as soon as possible and will bring forward proposals for further standards in due course.
Why has UKTAG only assessed the implications of Specific Pollutants standards for rivers?
To date, monitoring of chemicals by the agencies has been limited to those areas across the UK where a risk has been perceived – often where activities discharge to rivers and estuaries. Occasionally, detail studies have been undertaken at a catchment or site to look at the accumulation of chemicals.
As a result, in the UKTAG report, we have focused on the data that is available for rivers.
As the extended WFD monitoring programmes are implemented in 2007, the agencies will collate more data, which will inform future river basin planning cycles.
Why have we not developed standards for sediments?
The standards developed for specific pollutants in water have been designed to be sufficiently protective of all aquatic compartments. This decision was taken because the availability of reliable toxicological data for sediment dwelling organisms is generally poor. In such cases the only basis for deriving standards in sediments is to use Partitioning Theory to predict the concentration. Most experts, including the EU Scientific Committee, consider the inherent inaccuracies of this approach to be unacceptably large. The EU Committee advised against its use for setting sediment standards for the priority substances.
UK Environment Agencies will continue to monitor water, sediment and/or biota where appropriate using the risk- based approach advocated in WFD. In some instances monitoring in sediment or biota may be more effective, for instance to illustrate trends, but the primary matrix for monitoring for compliance purposes will be water.