Water Framework Directive (WFD) Assessments

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is European Union legislation under which Great Britain is obliged to meet targets for the ecological and chemical status of waterbodies over the course of the next 15 years. Any works which could affect the hydro-morphology, ecology or water quality of any classified waterbody requires an assessment under the WFD to demonstrate how any adverse impacts will be mitigated and where possible, the status of the waterbody enhanced in order to achieve the required good status targets.


The Directive aims for “good status” of all ground and surface water (rivers, lakes, transitional water and coastal waters) in the EU. All waterbodies have been assessed and are included within the local River Basin Management Plan (RBMP).

Surface Water Criteria 

The “ecological” status of surface waters area assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Biological quality – fish, benthic invertebrates, aquatic flora
  • Hydromorphological quality e.g. river bank structure, continuity of the channel or substrate of the river bed
  • Phyisco-chemical quality – e.g. temperature, oxygenation and nutrient conditions

The “chemical” status refers to the environmental quality standards specific water pollutants.

Groundwater Criteria

Groundwater bodies are assessed according to their “quantitative status” and “chemical status”.

The status of each waterbody is regularly reassessed and 2015 saw the end of the first cycle since the legislation was introduced. Any waterbody not already achieving good status will have an extended target date, and will be aiming to improve by 2021 or 2027.

Proposed Development

Any development scheme which has potential to threaten the qualitative or quantitative status of any waterbody is likely to require a WFD assessment. The assessment is typically hydrology-led, with specific input from an ecological specialist where required. Water Environment have good working relationships with ecological consultants, who are able to assist us with completion of WFD assessments. The purpose of the assessment is to determine whether there are any elements of the proposed scheme which could have a detrimental effect on the current quality of any waterbody. Construction must have no permanent, unmitigated effects which cause any deterioration in the current status of any surface-water or groundwater body.

We would recommend that potential developments consider any implications to waterbodies on-site at the earliest stage. With careful consideration, required mitigation can be sensitively and cost-effectively included in the design. Please contact us if you would like to discuss the requirements of the WFD in relation to your development.