Development of a high-level technical process and detailed participation strategy to support the implementation of Water Resources Management Strategies in Scotland and Northern Ireland Phase 1

October 2004


Project code and title: WFD33, Development of a high-level technical process and detailed participation strategy to support the implementation of Water Resources Management Strategies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Project funders/partners: Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA); Environment & Heritage Service (EHS, Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland).

Background to the research: The Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires the introduction of new regulatory regimes for abstraction and impoundment that are planned and managed at river basin and catchment levels. The agencies responsible for the administration of these new requirements (SEPA for Scotland, and EHS for Northern Ireland) wish to develop an approach for the catchment-based management of water resources that:

During the external consultation process undertaken by the Scottish Executive for the transposition of the WFD in Scotland, it was agreed that the mechanism for involvement of the public and stakeholders would be via the development of Water Resources Management Strategies (WRMS).

Objectives of the research: The overall purpose of the project was to develop the framework for WRMS to include the specific requirements of water resource management, and to indicate the scale of public and stakeholder involvement at the various stages of assessment and management. The criteria were that the WRMS framework needs to:

Key findings of the research:

International review: The research commenced with a brief review of international practice, concentrating on the technical and participatory elements of catchment-based water resources management. The review considered how various approaches might fit into a broad river basin planning framework, as provided by the WFD. The countries selected for the review were Canada (British Columbia), France, Australia (Queensland and South Australia), Ireland, Germany and Sweden. The aim was to benefit from the experience of others, and specific features or techniques were identified which could usefully be incorporated into the proposed WRMS process for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Catchment prioritisation: It is anticipated that WRMS will not be required for every catchment, but will only be undertaken in, for example: water-stressed surface and groundwater catchments; catchments with specific environmental and ecological protection requirements; catchments where there are high conflicting demands for water resources; or catchments where the overarching RBMP process identifies such a need.

A methodology was required for proposing which catchments to consider first. A form of multi-criteria decision analysis was chosen as the most appropriate prioritisation methodology. Criteria, scores and weights were developed to cover the following key areas (focussing on water -related issues): hydrological pressures; degree of abstraction; prevalence of irrigated agriculture; aquifer characteristics; and number of water-dependent environmentally sensitive sites. The methodology was tested on 5 catchments in Scotland.

High-level technical process: This can be described in terms of four main stages:

Participation strategy: Participation is a core requirement of the WFD. Providing opportunities for the participation of stakeholders and the general public in the WRMS process was given a high priority in this project, with a consensus-building approach taken, to enable regulation to be more effective and efficient. Key aspects are as follows:

Recommendations for uptake: The high-level process for WRMS development set out in this report is flexible and robust, and able to be adapted to catchments with issues of different complexity. Before WRMS can be put into practice, further detailed work is required in the following areas: adjusting the prioritisation methodology to fit actual data; developing technical methodologies (or using existing methodologies from elsewhere) for resource assessment and options appraisal; and designing standard website and document formats.

Key words: water resources management, catchment, equitable allocation, environment, participation, consultation, stakeholder, Water Framework Directive.

Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic format on CDRom at 20.00 + VAT or hard copy at 35.00, less 20% to FWR members.

N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website