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Water Framework Directive

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The Water Framework Directive is European legislation which promotes water management through river basin planning.

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) introduces a holistic approach to the management of water quality and establishes a system for the protection and improvement of all water bodies, including rivers, estuaries, groundwater, lakes and coastal waters. The Directive provides the foundation for the management of the water environment in Wales.

The Directive encourages greater public engagement and participation in developing the future management of our water environment through the river basin management planning process.

River basin management planning

In Wales there are three River Basin Districts. One of these, the Western Wales River Basin District, is contained and managed wholly in Wales. The other two are cross-border with England: the Severn River Basin District and the Dee River Basin District.

The Environment Agency leads on the development of the Severn River Basin Management Plan, whilst Natural Resources Wales leads on the development of the Dee River Basin Management Plan.

Consultation on the proposed update to Wales’ river basin management plans 2014 - 2015

Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency consulted in 2015 on draft revised river basin management plans to set objectives for Wales’ rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal and ground waters for 2015 – 2021. The consultation closed in April 2015. See the summary and analysis of consultation responses (external link, pdf) 

The Western Wales River basin management plan (external link) was published by Natural Resources Wales on 22 December 2015. The Severn and Dee plans were published by Natural Resources Wales on 18 February 2016 following approval by the UK Government.    

Shellfish Regulations

The Water Framework Directive requires that Member States continue to provide shellfish water protected areas at least the same protection as under the repealed Shellfish Waters Directive. The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 were laid before the National Assembly on 10 February 2016 so that protections under that Directive are continued. The regulations came into force from 3 March 2016.

The Regulations ensure that objectives are set for improving or protecting the water quality of shellfish waters and that these are monitored. Information about these areas must also be included in the river basin management plans.

The content of the list of shellfish water protected areas in Wales has not changed since 2013.

More information about water resource management in Wales can be found at Natural Resources Wales (external link).