Water Framework Directive: Overview and Terms

2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, known as the Water Framework Directive.

The Directive is implemented by S.I. 722/2003 European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003

The directive relates to planning for protection and improvement of all waters, including surface water, groundwater, coastal and transitional waters.  The directive deals also with artificial water bodies – such as canals – as well as waters whose character is substantially changed by human activity – referred to as heavily modified water bodies (HMWBs).

  • Inland waters are all standing or flowing water on the surface of the land, and all groundwater on the landward side of the baseline from which+ the breadth of territorial waters is measured.
  • Surface waters are inland waters, except groundwater, transitional waters and coastal waters, except in respect of chemical status, for which territorial waters are also included.
  • Groundwater is all water which is below the surface of the ground in the saturation zone and in direct contact with the ground or subsoil.
  • Transitional waters are bodies of surface water in the vicinity of river mouths which are partly saline in character as a result of their proximity to coastal waters but which are substantially influenced by freshwater flows.
  • Coastal water is surface water on the landward side of a line every point of which is at a distance of one nautical mile on the seaward side from the nearest point of the baseline from which the breadth of territorial waters is measured, extending where appropriate up to the outer limit of transitional waters.
  • River basin is the area of land from which all surface run-off flows through a sequence of streams, rivers and, possibly, lakes into the sea at a single river mouth, estuary or delta.
  • River basin district is the area of land and sea, made up of one or more neighbouring river basins together with their associated groundwaters and coastal waters, which is identified under Article 3(1) as the main unit for management of river basins.