Catchment management for sustainable use of water
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the most substantial piece of EC water legislation to date. It requires all inland and coastal waters to reach "good status" by 2015. It will do this by establishing a river basin district structure within which demanding environmental objectives will be set, including ecological targets for surface waters
The legislative driver imposed by the Water Framework Directive and changes predicted to result from climate change are just two of the many interacting issues that raise challenges for sustainable use of water:
- How to resolve competing demands on water as a resource and as a habitat? Projections couple increasing requirements for water for human activities and decreasing availability of water in some areas due to climate change. At the same time, there is need to conserve and enhance water assigned as protected ecological habitat.
- How to balance water use in rural and urban areas? The need to sustain livelihoods and leisure activities in rural areas can compete directly with provision of water as a resource to urban communities downstream. Novel technologies and education are required to promote efficient use, treatment and recycling of waters in urban areas.
- How to assign, monitor and improve ecological status. The Water Framework Directive establishes an ambitious timetable for ensuring "good ecological status" in assigned waters. There are many open questions about how to define ecological status and how to manage land and water resources to deliver the required improvement. As an example, we do not understand the relative contribution of different stressors (sediment, nutrients, pesticides, etc) to the degradation of water quality in agricultural areas.
- How to deliver flood protection in a cost effective manner? Around 5 million people, in 2 million properties, live in flood risk areas in England and Wales. Projections suggest an increasing frequency of extreme flood events in the coming decades.
Managing the impact from flooding will entail complex decisions on how to direct flood waters to where they cause the least harm.
- The Environment Agency has a duty to secure the proper use of water resources in England and Wales.
- For information on the water industry, the Water Framework Directive and other policy developments: http://www.water.org.uk/