The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force in 2000 and was transposed into UK law in 2003. Its purpose is to enhance the status and prevent further deterioration in the ecology of aquatic ecosystems and their associated wetlands and groundwater. The WFD required that inland and coastal waters should reach good chemical and ecological status by 2015, unless a later WFD objective can be justified; 2015, 2021, and 2027 are the main WFD objectives, with the latter being the final objective by which all waterbodies must meet Good Ecological Status.

The WFD applies to all freshwater bodies (lakes, streams, river) plus groundwater and coastal waters (one-mile out from low water). For a copy of the WFD, please see the European Commision website by clicking this link.

Article 4a (ii) of the WFD states: “Member States shall protect, enhance and restore all bodies of surface water, subject to the application of subparagraph (iii) for artificial and heavily modified bodies of water, with the aim of achieving good surface water status at the latest 15 years after the date of entry into force of this Directive...”

Summarised, member states must ensure that all natural water bodies are of “Good Ecological Status” (GES) by 2015. Good Ecological Status is defined in Section 1.2 of Annex 5 of the WFD as: “The values of the biological quality elements for the surface water body type show low levels of distortion resulting from human activity, but deviate only slightly from those normally associated with the surface water body type under undisturbed conditions.”


What is a Water Body?

For the purpose of the WFD large river basins such as the Thames have been split into a number of smaller hydological sub-units referred to as ‘waterbodies’; these waterbodies encompass the catchment area of tributaries, or individual stretches of larger rivers. Lakes and canals have also been classed as waterbodies in their own right; however these typically sit within one or more river waterbody.

The river waterbodies in the scope of this plan are shown on the Catchment description page.


How are waterbodies classified?

In order to begin the process of bringing all waterbodies to Good Ecological Status, the current ecological status of each waterbody was assessed. The ecological status/potential of surface waterbodies is calculated using a range of biological, chemical and physical elements. These elements span biological indicators (such as the health of fish and invertebrate communities), chemistry (such as the concentration of phosphates, and ammonia) and hydromorphology (physical condition and naturalness of flows).

Throughout the following descriptions of the waterbodies, we refer to their ecological status. A brief explanation to Good, Moderate, Poor and Bad Water Framework Directive status can be found by clicking here, or on the image below.


These tests are carried out by the Environment Agency, and the Upper Thames results can be found on their Catchment Data Explorer, click here to find out more.



Questions & queries

If you have any questions regarding the Upper Thames Catchment Partership, please contact FWAG SouthWest by emailing [email protected] or call 01666 503668.

Click here to go back to the Upper Thames Catchment Partnership homepage to learn more about an aspect of the partnership.