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A timetable for the implementation of the WFD in Scotland has been defined. Starting from the creation of the WEWS Act in 2003, environmental objectives have to be achieved in 2015 and a fourth RBMP is set to be published in 2027, the final step in the timetable. The different steps in the timetable are outlined below (SEERAD, 2005a):

2003 Transpose Directive into domestic law (WEWS (Scotland) Act 2003)
Identify river basin districts and the competent authorities who will be empowered to implement the Directive
2004 Produce characterisation of river basin districts/pressures and impacts analysis
2005 Establish a register of protected areas in each river basin district
2006 Establish environmental monitoring
Publish a work programme for producing the first River Basin Management Plan
2007 As a precursor to the full plan, publish an interim overview of the significant water management issues in each river basin district for general consultation
2008 Publish draft RBMPs for consultation
2009 Finalise and publish RBMP
Establish the programme of measures to meet the objectives
2012 Programmes of measures fully operational
Publish timetable and work programme for second RBMP
2013 Repeat characterisation of river basin districts
2014 Publish second draft RBMP
2015 Deadline for achieving environmental objectives
Finalise and publish second RBMP with revised Programme of Measures
2021 Third RBMP
2027 Fourth RBMP

The Water Framework Directive (the WEWS Act) has two key components (SEERAD, 2005b):

  • it requires management of the water environment on the basis of units that make sense in environmental terms – River Basin Districts that include all interdependent rivers, lochs, estuaries, coastal waters and associated underground waters. A plan will have to be drawn up for each River Basin District setting out where there are environmental problems and what will be done to tackle them;
  • it also requires that, for the first time, all impacts – physical, polluting and otherwise – on the water environment are controlled with the aim of achieving ‘good’ ecological status for most rivers etc by specified deadlines – 2015 in most cases. Status is determined on the basis of ecology because the Directive requires that quality is determined not just by the chemical composition of waters but by the fish, plant and other life that inhabit it.

For the purpose of water management, Scotland has been divided into 2 river basin districts – one covering most of Scotland and one covering cross-border areas (Solway and Tweed). For each River Basin District a strategic management plan must be drawn up. This River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) will be the driving force behind environmental improvements and a key to achieving good ecological status. This plan will be based on the results of the ‘characterisation’ process, completed by SEPA in December 2004. The characterisation report identified water bodies in Scotland, which are at risk of failing to achieve good ecological status by 2015. The Plan will establish environmental objectives – a quality target – for each water body (river or loch or part of a river or loch or ground water). The Directive defines a default objective of ‘good’ status, although variations from that are allowed. It also requires that no deterioration in status may take place. These environmental objectives are based on ecology. This means that the plants and animals (fish as well as insects and other invertebrates) that live in our natural waters will become the principal indicators of success at protecting and improving the water environment. Both chemical, hydro morphological and physical conditions must be right for them to flourish following that what is good for them will also be good for humans.

Having set the environmental objective the plan must set out how that objective will be achieved through a programme of measures. If a particular loch or stretch of coastal water is damaged or polluted, the plan needs to determine what needs to be done to retrieve the situation. Having established the plan and having put the measures in place to achieve the objectives the next stage in the process is comprehensive monitoring to check that the objectives have been met. Thereafter, the process of planning, action and monitoring starts again.

SEPA is responsible for implementing the WEWS Act in Scotland, including monitoring the status of the water environment and for preparing a required monitoring programme and will conduct regulatory functions. The regulatory functions for SEPA have been set in the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Regulations 2005 (so called ‘CAR’), which set proportionate and risk based approach to controlling impacts on water environment. These impacts include:

  • activities liable to cause pollution of the water environment, including point source and diffuse source pollution (diffuse pollution regulations will follow at later stage)
  • abstraction of water from the water environment
  • the construction, alteration or operation of impounding works in surface waters or wetlands
  • carrying out building, engineering, or other works
    • in inland water other than groundwater, or wetlands, or
    • in the vicinity of inland water or wetlands, and likely to have a significant adverse effect on the water environment
  • artificial recharge or augmentation of groundwater.

The Controlled Activities Regulations has established a three tier control system consisting of general binding rules, registration and licenses. Activities which represent only a small risk for the water environment do not need to be registered with SEPA and fall within the General Binding Rules. Such activities are:

  • A large number of passive weirs constructed before 1 st April 2006 that do not affect fish passage
  • Abstractions of less than 10m 3/day
  • Construction/extension of wells/boreholes and subsequent abstraction
  • Ditch dredging activities
  • Construction and maintenance of temporary/minor bridges
  • Laying of pipeline/cable by boring
  • Works to control the erosion of a bank of a river, burn or ditch using revetments
  • Operation of vehicles, plant/equipment
  • Low risk surface water discharges.

The second tier includes activities with predictable environmental impacts but where cumulative impacts are likely and require registration. Registration will encompass such activities as septic tank discharges, small abstractions and minor engineering works.

In the third tier licenses will be issued to control activities posing the greatest risk for the water environment. Licenses will be tailored to the particular nature, extent and location of the activity concerned and it is anticipated that around 15,000 licenses will be issued. Activities requiring a license include for example canalization, permanent diversion of the water body, and flood protection works.

Water Framework Directive - Evaluation >>