Further supplementary memorandum submitted
by the Environment Agency (J24 (b))
NOTE ON THE MOVEMENT TOWARDS ECOLOGICAL MONITORING,
THE DRAFT CRITERIA FOR "GOOD STATUS", AND A LIST OF
THE UK RIVERS WHICH WOULD CURRENTLY MEET THE CRITERIA
1. Currently, the Agency uses macroinvertebrates
in rivers as the main indicator of the ecological health of river
systems. The information is gathered from over 5,000 sites covering
40,000 km of rivers in England and Wales on a three year rolling
programme. The data from this survey is used to classify our rivers
for the "Biology General Quality Assessment" of river
quality, and is reported to Defra for inclusion as one element
of the Government's "River Water Quality" indicator.
This is one of the 15 UK headline indicators of sustainable development.
2. River macroinvertebrates are used for
this indicator because the UK has a system called the River Prediction
and Classification System (RIVPACS), which provides targets for
macro-invertebrate communities, based on the physical and chemical
attributes of the river at the survey site in relatively undisturbed
conditions. The requirement to use reference conditions in the
Water Framework Directive classification schemes makes RIVPACS
potentially well suited for use in the Directive.
3. The Agency also carries out monitoring
of most of the other biological quality elements in the Directive
for other purposes. Examples of this include the use of river
macrophytes and diatoms for assessment of eutrophication for the
Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and of benthic macro-invertebrates
in transitional waters for quality assessment for the National
Marine Monitoring Programme and the Titanium Dioxide Directive.
We also carry out biological monitoring in some of our lakes,
such as the Norfolk Broads and the Lake District lakes and monitor
fish in rivers for fisheries management purposes. Whilst these
programmes are appropriate for collecting the information needed
for these purposes, they are not designed to meet the needs of
the Water Framework Directive. In particular, they do not have
suitable Classification schemes developed, which use reference
conditions for "high status" in the context of the Water
4. At present, the Agency's Water Framework
Directive Programme is developing the relevant Classification
schemes and is putting in place research needed to fill any gaps
in sampling and assessment methods. This will be strongly influenced
by the outcome of the guidance made by the European Commission's
Common Implementation Strategy Working Groups on reference conditions
(REFCON) and the coasts (COAST). Although we can make an assessment
of the likely impact of the Directive on river classification
using macro-invertebrates, there is some uncertainty about where
the class boundaries will be drawn until the inter-calibration
work on reference conditions has been completed.
Although the criteria for "good status"
will not be finalised across Europe until after the completion
of the inter-calibration exercise in 2006, the Agency has taken
an initial view that "good status" may be met by those
stretches of river where the Biology General Quality Assessment
class is A or B in both 1995 and 2000.
6. Attached is a map of England and Wales
detailing those stretches of river likely to meet "good status"
based on this understanding. It should be noted that the Biology
General Quality Assessment window only uses invertebrates, and
also that this system does not consider all the WFD biological
elements used to assess status within rivers (aquatic flora and
fish). This exercise therefore only approximates to an analysis
of good status, and it is likely that a somewhat larger number
of rivers will not meet good status when the full analysis has
29 November 2002