EU Water Framework Directive-River Basin Management Planning in Ireland

Earle, R.;Almeida, G.

  • Received : 2010.01.10
  • Accepted : 2010.02.26
  • Published : 2010.06.30


The European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) (2000/60/EC) was transposed into Irish law by Statutory Instrument Nos. 722 of 2003, 413 of 2005 and 218 of 2009, which set out a new strategy and process to protect and enhance Ireland's water resources and water-dependent ecosystems. The Directive requires a novel, holistic, integrated, and iterative process to address Ireland's natural waters based on a series of six-year planning cycles. Key success factors in implementing the Directive include an in-depth and balanced treatment of the ecological, economic, institutional and cultural aspects of river basin management planning. Introducing this visionary discipline for the management of sustainable water resources requires a solemn commitment to a new mindset and an overarching monitoring and management regime which hitherto has never been attempted in Ireland. The WFD must be implemented in conjunction with a myriad of complimentary directives and associated legislation, addressing such key related topics as flood/drought management, biodiversity protection, land use planning, and water/wastewater and diffuse pollution engineering and regulation. The critical steps identified for river basin management planning under the WFD include: 1) characterization and classification of water bodies (i.e., how healthy are Irish waters?), 2) definition of significant water pressures (e.g., agriculture, forestry, septic tanks), 3) enhancement of measures for designated protected areas, 4) establishment of objectives for all surface and ground waters, and 5) integrating these critical steps into a comprehensive and coherent river basin management plan and associated programme of measures. A parallel WFD implementation programme critically depends on an effective environmental management system (EMS) approach with a plan-do-check-act cycle applied to each of the evolving six-year plans. The proactive involvement of stakeholders and the general public is a key element of this EMS approach.


Water Framework Directive;River basin management planning;Environmental management system


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