ICE’s Maritime Panel is urging all civil engineers involved in the management or physical modification of water bodies to carefully review the draft River Basin Management Plans.
The draft was issued for consultation by the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, as they are set to have wide ramifications for the industry.
The plans are being issued as part of the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000, and will set out how acceptable levels of water status will be achieved and maintained.
Until recently, assessments of water quality often focused on their chemical quality, but under the new regime broader "ecological" objectives will be set. This could leave a number of UK water bodies being reclassified as substandard.
In 2007 the use of the general quality assessment meant 72% of English rivers were classified as good or excellent. However, using the WFD’s way of assessing the whole water environment, only 23% of rivers are likely to be classified as good or better.
Unless exemptions are justified, all water bodies in the UK, including rivers, coastal waters, estuaries and manmade water bodies, will be expected to achieve a "good ecological and chemical status" by 2015.
Jan Brooke, from ICE’s Maritime Panel said: "The WFD is arguably the most important, farreaching, water legislation ever to emerge from the EU. This consultation is important because River Basin Management Plans could have significant implications for organisations with interests in water quality, ecology and waterrelated physical infrastructure.
"In practical terms these plans could affect a wide cohort of ICE members, including owners or managers of water bodies, such as water companies and port operators, and anyone carrying out works which affect water bodies, including flood risk engineers. "It is important to recognise that these will become statutory plans, not the voluntary type of water management plan many have become used to. We are therefore urging all ICE members who may be affected to carefully review the consultation and to respond where appropriate."
The consultation on WFD River Basin Management Plans will run for six months and is open to all organisations and to the general public.