Title: The European Water Framework Directive at the Age of 10: A Critical Review of the Achievements with Recommendations for the Future
Citation: SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT vol. 408 no. 19 p. 4007-4019
Publication Year: 2010
JRC N°: JRC56399
ISSN: 0048-9697
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC56399
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.05.031
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: The European Water Framework Directive (WFD), which was adopted in 2000, changed water management in all member states of the European Union fundamentally and based management decisions on aquatic ecology. We review successes and problems with the WFD implementation encountered over the past 10 years and derive recommendations to further improve the implementation process. We particularly address three fields: (i) The development of assessment methods (including reference conditions, typologies and intercalibration); (ii) the implementation of assessment systems in monitoring programmes; and (iii) the consequences for river basin management plans (such as design, monitoring and success of restoration measures). The development of assessment methods was a transparent process and resulted in improved and regionalised tools for assessing rivers, lakes and coastal/transitional waters. The process was more time consuming and methods were more complex than originally expected. As a consequence methods had to be intercalibrated to gain a Europe-wide harmonised assessment of ecological status, a process which is not finalised. Future challenges include the estimation of uncertainty of assessment results and a revision of rules in combining the results obtained with different Biological Quality Elements. A huge amount of monitoring data is now being generated for WFD purposes, enhancing the knowledge of European aquatic ecosystems. Monitoring data are, however, not centrally stored and thus poorly accessible for purposes beyond the WFD. Future challenges include enhanced data accessibility, the establishment of a Europe-wide central monitoring network and the use of mutual benefits with other environmental directives. The River Basin Management Plans under the WFD base management decisions on the response of aquatic organisms to environmental stress. In contrast to the effects of degradation the biotic response to restoration is less well known and (especially in complex multi-stressor situations) poorly predictable; in many cases time lags due to low recolonisation potential of aquatic organisms are expected. The timescale of the WFD (obtaining good ecological status by 2027) seems to be overambitious. Future challenges include long-term monitoring of restoration measures to analyse spatial and temporal requirements of ecosystems to recover, prioritisation of measures according to the recolonisation potential, and including the effects of emerging stressors into assessment systems.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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