Assessing Scotland's water environment: use of environmental standards, condition limits and classification schemes

This document sets out how SEPA should implement the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003, using Directions from 2014.


The Water Framework Directive ( WFD) is a driving force behind the management of Scotland's water environment. We need to ensure that water use is sustainable, for this and future generations.

To help us do this, we need to define the environmental standards necessary to secure healthy aquatic ecosystems. We introduced a first set of such standards to underpin the first cycle of river basin management planning. These were published in Directions issued to SEPA in 2009. We have now issued new Standards Directions to SEPA replacing those published in 2009 and incorporating an updated package of standards. The updated package reflects developments in scientific understanding that have been made since 2009:

One of the key uses of the standards is to underpin the classification schemes needed to assess the state of our aquatic environment. Classification shows us where the status of the water environment is good, and where it requires improvement. This helps us identify and prioritise where improvements may be needed, and will in turn help us to assess how our water bodies have benefited from those improvements. The first set of classification schemes were published in Classification Directions to SEPA in 2009. We have issued revised Directions (now called 'Status Directions') incorporating the changes needed to take account of the updated and expanded set of environmental standards:

To support the 2009 Directions we published a policy statement on 'Assessing Scotland's water environment - use of environmental standards, condition limits and classification schemes'. This updated policy statement replaces the 2010 document.

This policy statement and the associated Standards and Status Directions are intended to provide stakeholders with a better understanding of our approach to the protection of the water environment through the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003, which implements the Water Framework Directive and its daughter Directives, Priority Substances Directive (2008/105/ EC) and Groundwater Directive (2006/118/ EC) .

To complement these documents, our policy statement on " Principles for setting objectives for the River Basin Management Plan" describes our approach to setting environmental objectives for the water environment.


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