European Directives

The Habitats Directive

It was as a result of a complaint made under the EU Habitats Directive that the Irish Drift nets were finally removed in 2007. This is environmental legislation with teeth! The aim is to protect biodiversity on a pan EU scale. The Joint Nature Conservancy Council describes it thus:

"The Habitats Directive introduces for the first time for protected areas, the precautionary principle; that is that projects can only be permitted having ascertained no adverse effect on the integrity of the site. Projects may still be permitted if there are no alternatives, and there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest. In such cases compensation measures will be necessary to ensure the overall integrity of network of sites. As a consequence of amendments to the Birds Directive these measures are to be applied to SPAs also. Member States shall also endeavour to encourage the management of features of the landscape to support the Natura 2000 network."

You will find this in full at

The Natura 2000 network includes the reason for listing the three SACs of interest to us and it is well worth looking at all three:

Severn Estuary:

We suspect the provisions of these Directives will be fully tested in respect of the impending Severn Barrage and hope that the stringent provisions of the Directive will not tempt legislators to attempt any dilution of its powers.

Site Plans

Countryside Council for Wales has been responsible for preparing detailed site plans for the two rivers. These can be downloaded here for the Wye and for the Usk.

The Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive is described variously as: "the most Exciting .... the most Substantial .... Innovative ...Holistic etc, etc.... piece of EU legislation." It's easy to get carried away!

Promises, promises...

What it seeks to do (notice the choice of words) is to establish "Good Ecological Status" (GES) to all water bodies in the EU by a certain date. "GES" is a very lofty aspiration as it embodies good biological status with good physical status. The problem is that if you cost the whole thing out to achieve this across the UK, it could swallow up money faster than a dozen Olympics, so there are a number of "Out" clauses. The essence of these is that if something is not cost effective then you don't have to do it, or you can find a cheaper but less effective solution.

River District Basins...

The country is divided into eleven "River District Basins". The Wye and Usk are firmly in the Severn RDB, which like the Dee spans England and Wales. A tiered system of representation is set up with a panel that have the almost impossible task of representing the whole region. The panel is a cross section of governmental organisations and statutory bodies, industry, water companies, land user groups, water consumers and NGOs. If you like, it's polluters vs. those trying to combat the problem. WUF's director is one of the NGOs representing fisheries' interests.

Significant Water Management Issues (SWMIs) A key task is to determine and assess SWMIs for the Severn RBD, a largely academic exercise led with information from the Agency

There is some good news, however: the situation for Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) is that the requirements for (wait for it)... "Favourable Conservation Status" is, de facto, the requirements for "GES". On this there should be no compromise and the date for achievement of GES is 2008! Both the Usk and Wye are SACs and therefore there are considerable efforts being made to move towards this watery utopia.

Of course the subject is huge and we have included some links below for those wishing to know more:

Drinking Water Directive

The objective of the 1998 Drinking Water Directive is to protect the health of European Union consumers and to ensure water is wholesome and clean. To this aim, the Directive sets standards for the most common substances that can be found in drinking water. A total of 48 microbiological and chemical parameters must be monitored and tested regularly by Member States. In principle, WHO guidelines for drinking water are used as a basis for these standards. Member States can, for a limited time, deviate from chemical quality standards. Known as derogations, these can be granted provided they do not constitute a potential danger to human health and provided that the supply of water intended for human consumption in the area concerned cannot be maintained by any other reasonable means. For more information, please click here.

Freshwater Fish Directive

The Freshwater Fish Directive (1978) was devised to protect and enhance fresh waters to better support fish. It sets standards of water quality and monitoring requirements to ensure the protection of coarse and game fisheries. The Directive requires the designation of appropriate rivers and lakes into two categories: those suitable for salmonids and those suitable for cyprinids. Approximately 34,300km of river in England and Wales had been designated under the Directive by 2005, with around 65% designated as salmonid. The salmonid waters were typically the fast flowing upper sections of rivers (plus some upland lakes) and cyprinid waters covering still waters and rivers at the lower end of their catchment.

The Directive also sets out 14 physical and chemical parameters for which 'imperative' and/or the more rigorous 'guideline' standards are given for the two categories of designation.
According to Defra, from 1999 to 2005, failures were mainly caused by low dissolved oxygen concentrations, variations in pH and raised concentrations of total ammonium. The main reasons for these failures were effluent discharges from waste water treatment works, low river flows, algal blooms, and farm run-off.

For more information, please click here.