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Summer sets standards

Water quality standards for streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries and groundwater will be set out this summer, fleshing out detail on the EU's Water Framework Directive.

THE COMPLEXITIES of reducing diffuse pollution and characterising the quality of different water bodies are two key issues coming up this year as the government gets to grips with the detail of the new European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Introduction of the directive is already under way, with different phases coming into force through to 2015. A raft of reports and assessments is due this year as teams from the Environment Agency and the Department of the Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) start to produce detailed information.

'There is a massive amount of information coming. The water companies and other concerned organisations will require this to understand their investment needs and the gap between current plans and what will be required, ' says Anglian Water environmental standards manager Stephen Bolt. The water companies' next five year investment period, AMP4 starts next year and will be strongly influenced by the requirements.

The biggest issue is the characterisation of bodies of water. The WFD requires that every water body be assessed on a range of ecological and chemical measures into one of five bands from pristine to bad. Water bodies will also be classified according to how possible it is to restore their original condition - harbours cannot be brought to the same standards as mountain lakes for example.

Details on various bodies will be released by the EU in September. A key issue is 'inter calibration' of the standards.

Various national proposals feedback to Brussels, which will make cross European comparisons to set detailed water body/ quality definitions.

'Just where will the boundaries be between the five categories of water body quality?' asks Bolt.

'What constitutes 'good' is critical.'

Meanwhile, in June DEFRA is publishing much more detailed proposals about the measures that can be used to control diffuse pollution.

An 'armoury' of options is being considered, says a DEFRA spokesman. These will include economic carrot and stick measures, legislative regulation, education programmes for producers of run-off - farmers on one hand, and urban planners and engineers on the other - and simple advice.

Agriculture looks set to be DEFRA's main focus, but road and other urban run-off is no small issue.

One important aspect for engineers will be their ability to model rainfall, run-off, sources of and pathways for pollution, and the effects of pollution once it reaches water bodies.

Hydrological models exist for many separate water systems, but few if any models are integrated. The WFD requires river basins to be managed as integrated systems.

Much work must also be done to characterise and model small water bodies, coastal waters and groundwater, which have previously been unmeasured, but which must be included in catchment models under the WFD.

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