The Water Framework Directive and Inland Fisheries

What is the Water Framework Directive?

In December 2000, the European Union introduced the WFD as part of a new approach for countries to manage their water resources and to protect aquatic ecosystems.  The fundamental objectives of the WFD, which were transposed into Irish Law in December 2003, are to maintain the status of waters that already are of good or high quality, to prevent any further deterioration in water quality and to ensure that all waters achieve at least good status by 2015.  To achieve this, the WFD updates existing water legislation and provides for the management of water resources on the basis of River Basin Districts (RBDs), implemented through the development of River Basin management Plans.

National monitoring programmes

  • The WFD calls for the protection and restoration of clean water across Europe.
  • A key step in this process is for Member States to assess the health of their surface waters through national monitoring programmes.
  • Monitoring is the main tool used by Member States to classify the ‘ecological status’ of each water body (section of a river or other surface water)
  • The WFD sets a 5 class scale (high, good, moderate, poor and bad ecological status)
  • Once Member States have determined the current ecological status of their water bodies, ongoing monitoring then helps Member States to track the effectiveness of measures needed to clean up water bodies and achieve good ecological status.

What is monitored for the WFD?

  • WFD requires monitoring of water chemistry, fish, algae, insects, plankton, plants and habitat.
  • WFD also requires monitoring of human impacts on hydromorphology (i.e. the physical shape of river systems).
  • Inland Fisheries Ireland has been assigned the responsibility of delivering information on fish stocks.
  • A team of scientists have been recruited to carry out monitoring surveys examining the fish populations on lakes, rivers, canals and estuaries across Ireland.

More information

Over 300 sites encompassing rivers, lakes and transitional waters are monitored by IFI in a three year rolling programme.  To find out more information on where we monitor, how we monitor and to access results and reports from recent surveys, visit the WFD project website

WFD News