The Water Framework Directive (WFD) originates from the EU but has been retained in UK law following the UK’s exit from Europe. At its core it aims to prevent deterioration of the water environment and improve water quality by managing water in natural river basin districts, rather than by administrative boundaries. It looks at ecological, physico-chemical, quantitative and morphological aspects of the water environment and requires that improvements take account of economic aspects, including costs and benefits. Plans to improve the status of water bodies are set out in River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs).

The objective of the WFD was to bring the standard of all European water bodies up to “good” by 2015. This timetable was highly ambitious and so two further six-year RBMPs are in place, taking implementation of the WFD’s objectives up to 2027. The requirement to develop a second RBMP running from 2021–2027 is set out in domestic law and so the UK’s obligations to produce a plan still apply.

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