Login News Terms & Conditions

The Characterisation Process under the Water Framework Directive

Article 5 of the Water Framework Directive is concerned with the environmental characterisation of the River Basin Management planning process. The main elements of which are;

  • Characterisation of surface waters and groundwater.

This includes the identification and description of water bodies followed by classification according to their specific type. Water bodies are assigned to types depending on their physical and biological characteristics (typology).

Characterisation provides a detailed picture of the present state of water bodies and the plants and animals they support. It aids in determining monitoring strategies and gives a foundation for the "Programme of Measures".

  • Definition of reference conditions for good ecological status for each type of surface water body.

Reference conditions represent the condition of a water body in a relatively pristine or unimpacted state and so provide a calibration point against which other water bodies’ quality can be measured.

  • Identification of pressures.

In the case of all water bodies important environmental pressures must be acknowledged.

  • Impact of human activity on the status of surface waters and groundwater to assess the chances of failing to meet environmental objectives.

Impacts, where evident, must also be assessed. The risk of groundwaters and surface waters not achieving good status by 2015 can be measured using a combination of existing monitoring datasets and a predictive approach.

  • Economic analysis of water use.

The economic analysis section of the Characterisation Report gives us an impression of the economic issues surrounding our water resources. These include the costs of our water services and water recovery. The economic analysis will be very important when it comes to creating the Programme of Measures.

Characterisation (Article 5) Summary Reports

The creation of the Summary Characterisation Report is one of the first main requirements of the Water Framework Directive (under Article 5 of the Directive). Each European country is responsible for producing their Characterisation Reports.

The WFD Article 5 Summary Characterisation Report was completed in December 2004 by the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland, for the Northern Ireland areas, and the EPA with the support of the NS SHARE project for the Republic of Ireland areas. Visit the Environment and Heritage Service website to view the reports for Northern Ireland, and the Environmental Protection Agency website for the reports for the Republic of Ireland.

The Characterisation Report - what next?

The main purpose of the Summary Characterisation Report is to supply information on the initial characterisation at River Basin District level. This identifies water bodies that are perceived to be "at risk" or "not at risk" of achieving good status by 2015. The initial characterisation is an extremely important process as it aids in:

  • The setting of environmental objectives
  • The targeting of monitoring towards water bodies that are at the greatest risk of failing to meet their stated objectives
  • Providing a starting point for the design of the Programme of Measures - to ensure water bodies achieve the environmental objectives set out for them

After production of the Summary Characterisation Report further characterisation of "at risk" (and "probably at risk") water bodies will be carried out, this will aid in the construction of the draft River Basin Management Plans (due in 2008).

Back to the Top
Image of a river Image of Giants Ring Image of a boat at pier