The European Water Framework Directive, which came into force in 2000, introduced a system of river basin management which required member states to develop a range of new biological assessment systems to determine the status of Europe’s surface waters. Member states were free to use existing methods or to develop new ones, which resulted in a large number of methods being used across Europe. To ensure the comparability of the resulting assessments, these states were required to compare their methods to demonstrate that the boundary criteria they established represented similar levels of ecological change. Although it is desirable to align status class boundaries to significant changes of ecological status, so that the resulting classifications can be linked to ecosystem function, many methods simply divide status into five equal classes along a pressure gradient. An exception was the approach used for lakes, where a greater understanding of the impacts of eutrophication has been established. Here, boundaries were derived from the likelihood of undesirable disturbances caused by the secondary impacts of eutrophication. The Water Framework Directive has now been in force for twelve years, new monitoring systems have been developed and management plans have been adopted. While it is unlikely that the aim of achieving good ecological status can be achieved in the majority of surface waters by 2015, the default target established by the directive, good progress is being made and Europe is on the path to establishing a sustainable future for its water environment.

You do not currently have access to this content.