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Water Quality Standards

European water quality standards

The Water Framework Directive requires all EU states (including the UK) to set 'environmental objectives' for each of their water bodies. These objectives were initially set for the period 2009-2015. States must review and update them every six years as part of the river basin planning process.

For water bodies to comply with their objectives, they must meet a large number of standards for things such as pollutant concentrations, health of fish populations, and groundwater quantity. Some of those standards are set out in other, more specialist EU water directives, such as the Priority Substances Directive. Other standards are set by each EU state, to reflect local differences. Different objectives and standards will apply to different water bodies, depending on what kind of water they are (surface water or groundwater, whether they are used for abstracting drinking water, particular characteristics of the river, lake, estuary etc in question).

UK water quality standards

UK water quality standards are set in accordance with the Water Framework Directive and other EU water directives. The precise values for standards have been set with advice from the UK Technical Advisory Group (UKTAG). The standards for water bodies in England and Wales are set out in a range of directions referred to in the following document:

The Environment Agency is primarily responsible for maintaining and improving the quality of fresh, marine, surface and underground waters in England. Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Environment and Heritage Services (EHS) have equivalent responsibilities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

Drinking water quality

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is the relevant body that regulates and monitors the quality of drinking water in England and Wales. The Water Industry Act 1991 requires local authorities to keep themselves informed about the quality and quantity of water supplies provided to premises within their area.

The Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR) regulates drinking water quality in Scotland, and the Drinking Water Inspector (the Inspectorate) regulates drinking water quality in Northern Ireland.


Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC

Directive on Environmental Quality Standards 2008/105/EC ('Priority Substances Directive')

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