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EU Water Framework Directive

Although both the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Diractive are aiming for maintaining or restoring the ecological quality of our natural environment the entry points and way of working of both Directives differ quite significantly.  An essential element of the Water Framework Directive is that the planning unit is a River Basin. Within the River Basin “water bodies” will need to be identified and the ecological status of these water bodies will have to assessed and, if need be, appropriate measures for achieving Good Ecological Status of these water bodies will need to be designed and implemented.  The selection of appropriate measures to achieve Good Ecological Status are key elements in achieving the objectives of Article 4 of the WFD and ideally have to be closely coordinated with the objectives of the Habitats Directive.

The main concept of the WFD is “water body” and delineating water bodies is one of the first and most important steps in the implementation of the WFD. After each water body has been delineated the biological, physical and biochemical elements will be assessed to establish the current ecological status.

The main concept of the Habitats Directive is “habitat type” and for each habitat type the typical species as well as the structures and functions will need to be assessed to indicate the so called “conservation status”. The delineation of each habitat type is based on the area where the species that are typical for the habitat type occur and mostly the delineation does not follow a physical feature in the field.

Good water quality of sufficient quantity is essential for all habitat types , terrestrial as well as aquatic. It is therefore crucial that managers of protected areas are involved in the drawing up water management plans and especially in drawing up the program of measures. Vice-versa water managers should be involved in drawing up management plans for protected areas so they can take the objectives of protected areas management plans into consideration when drawing up water management plans and the programme of measures.

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