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Environ Int. 2006 Dec;32(8):1043-55. Epub 2006 Jul 20.

Risks posed by climate change to the delivery of Water Framework Directive objectives in the UK.

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Climate Change Unit, Environment Agency, UK.


The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) is novel because it integrates water quality, water resources, physical habitat and, to some extent, flooding for all surface and groundwaters and takes forward river basin management. However, the WFD does not explicitly mention risks posed by climate change to the achievement of its environmental objectives. This is despite the fact that the time scale for the implementation process and achieving particular objectives extends into the 2020s, when climate models project changes in average temperature and precipitation. This paper begins by reviewing the latest UK climate change scenarios and the wider policy and science context of the WFD. We then examine the potential risks of climate change to key phases of the River Basin Management Process that underpin the WFD (such as characterisation of river basins and their water bodies, risk assessments to identify pressures and impacts, programmes of measures (POMs) options appraisal, monitoring and modelling, policy and management activities). Despite these risks the WFD could link new policy and participative mechanisms (being established for the River Basin Management Plans) to the emerging framework of national and regional climate change adaptation policy. The risks are identified with a view to informing policy opportunities, objective setting, adaptation strategies and the research agenda. Key knowledge gaps have already been identified during the implementation of the WFD, such as the links between hydromorphology and ecosystem status, but the overarching importance of linking climate change to these considerations needs to be highlighted. The next generation of (probabilistic) climate change scenarios will present new opportunities and challenges for risk analysis and policy-making.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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