The Water Framework Directive
Protecting our water
The European Water Framework Directive became part of UK law in 2003. Its aim is to protect and enhance the quality of water bodies, from lakes and streams to groundwaters, estuaries and coastal waters out to one mile at sea. The Directive sets a range of parameters for measuring the status of these water bodies, with a view to restoring those that fall below certain standards to healthy, fully functioning ecosystems. Central to this mission is the adoption of River Basin Management Plans, which aim to prevent deterioration in any water body and bring it to good status by 2027.
The implications of Brexit upon the Water Framework Directive are unknown but it is likely that there is a need to comply for the foreseeable future.
The need to reduce abstraction from rivers and groundwater is identified as ‘Sustainability Reductions’ for specific abstraction licences held by water companies. Balancing these requirements with growing demand and depleted water supplies adds up to a unique set of challenges.
These challenges arise as, put simply, there is very little ‘new’ water waiting to be discovered in south east England to be used for municipal water supplies, and so the south east water companies and regulators are working together to explore the implications of implementing the Water Framework Directive.
Whether the level of abstraction reduction expected can be balanced with the combined pressures of increased demand and climate change is central to our future planning and the investment decisions society must take.