Developing environmental standards for abstractions from UK rivers to implement the EU Water Framework Directive

Mike Acreman, Michael Dunbar, Jamie Hannaford, Owen Mountford, Paul Wood, Nigel Holmes, Ian Cowx, Richard Noble, Chris Extence, John Aldrick, Jackie King, Andrew Black, David Crookall

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    Under the European Union Water Framework Directive, Member States must put in place a river basin planning framework to determine what measures are necessary to maintain and improve the ecological status for all surface water bodies. The governmental organisations legally responsible for implementing the Directive in the UK have recognised that all appropriate river flow regime is fundamental to maintain a healthy river and, as a result, they need to regulate abstractions and effluent discharges and ensure Sufficient water is released From impoundments. This paper reports on the process of producing environmental standards that define the maximum abstraction allowable from UK rivers, to leave sufficient flow to maintain a healthy river ecosystem. As there are currently insufficient data available to determine the relationships between river flow and ecological status empirically, expert knowledge was Captured through a series of workshops at which leading UK freshwater scientists defined maximum levels of river flow regime alteration that would achieve ecological objectives for different river water body types. For the least ecologically sensitive rivers, maximum abstractions in the range 15-35% of the natural flow were proposed, depending on the flow magnitude and time of year. For the most sensitive rivers, the maximum abstraction proposed was in the ran, 7.5-25%. The knowledge was used by the responsible UK authorities to develop environmental standards. The authorities subsequently used the environmental standards to determine regulatory standards that could be implemented within practical constraints and current licensing policies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1105-1120
    Number of pages16
    JournalHydrological Sciences Journal
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


    • Water Framework Directive
    • environmental standards
    • abstraction management
    • rivers
    • expert panel
    • environmental flows
    • ecohydrology
    • hydro-ecology
    • FISH

    Cite this

    Acreman, M., Dunbar, M., Hannaford, J., Mountford, O., Wood, P., Holmes, N., Cowx, I., Noble, R., Extence, C., Aldrick, J., King, J., Black, A., & Crookall, D. (2008). Developing environmental standards for abstractions from UK rivers to implement the EU Water Framework Directive. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 53(6), 1105-1120.