Table of contents

2.3. Pressures and impacts on surface waters

In the case of surface waters, the WFD requires the identification of significant pressures from point sources of pollution, diffuse sources of pollution, modifications of flow regimes through abstractions or regulation and morphological alterations, as well as any other pressures. ‘Significant’ is interpreted as meaning that the pressure contributes to an impact that may result in the failing of Article 4(1) Environmental Objectives (see ’glossary’ below for further explanations).


The identification of significant pressures and their resulting impacts (which in turn lead to a reduced status) can involve different approaches: field surveys, inventories, numerical tools (e.g. modelling), expert judgement or a combination of tools. The magnitude of the pressure is usually compared with a threshold or criteria, relevant to the water body category and type, to assess its significance.


Reporting of pressures has to be seen in the context of the WFD planning process. The purpose of the Article 5 pressures and impacts analysis is to identify the water bodies which are at risk of failing to meet the Environmental Objectives of the WFD, either because they will not achieve good status or because their status is at risk of deterioration. Member States may have very comprehensive pressure inventories, but the purpose of reporting is focused on the ‘significance’ in relation to the WFD Environmental Objectives. Therefore, a pressure or impact should only be reported if it is significant, alone or in combination with others, because it puts the Environmental Objectives at risk. For example, the mere existence of point sources of pollution in a water body is not a reason to report point sources as a significant pressure. It should only be reported if these point sources put the achievement of the Environmental Objectives in the water body at risk. Significant pressures should only be reported for those water bodies which have been identified as being at risk.


The Article 5 pressures and impacts analysis is a crucial initial step in the planning process. The resulting risk assessment should then be used to design the monitoring programmes. One of the purposes of the monitoring programmes is to validate the risk assessment (see WFD Annex V section 1.3.1). This validation is then expected to feed into the risk assessment of the next planning cycle to refine the definition of ‘significance’ and improve the results. Indeed, in the first RBMPs, for the first risk assessment, Member States may have used certain pressure thresholds or criteria to define ‘significance’, but given the scarce impact data available at the time (the monitoring programmes had not yet started) it was not possible to establish a clear link to the impacts in terms of Environmental Objectives. For the second RBMPs, given the significant progress in terms of availability of information on pressures, impacts, responses, monitoring data and status, the pressures and impacts analysis and the risk assessment should have improved considerably, making this important first step of the planning process much more reliable.


This does not mean that the information on pressures and status at water body level should match one to one in all cases. It is expected that some water bodies may have been identified as being ‘at risk’ but their status is ’good’, either because the significant pressures identified are not large enough to cause the water body to be in less than good status in the given local conditions, or because the risk identified is a risk of deterioration. The opposite case (less than good status with no significant pressure) is seldom expected to happen, as the pressures analysis should be driven by a precautionary approach and be thorough enough to capture all potential pressures causing risk.

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Class: SurfaceWaterBody

  1. Please include here any comments which apply to all the schema elements in this Class.
  2. In addition to those general schema element level comments, we welcome your views on: a) whether you think this Class can be simplified;  and b) whether you think the linkages with other reporting Classes or Schemas can be improved, and how;


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swSignificantPressureType - Required.(SignificantPressureType_Enum)

Indicate the significant pressure type(s) from the enumeration list.

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swSignificantPressureOther - Conditional.

If ’7 – Anthropogenic pressure – Other’ is selected from the enumeration list and reported under swSignificantPressureType, provide details of any other anthropogenic pressure types which are relevant in this element. This element should only be reported if the pressure type is not included in the enumeration list under swSignificantPressureType.

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swSignificantImpactType - Required.(SignificantImpactType_Enum)

Indicate the impact type(s) from the enumeration list.

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swSignificantImpactOther - Conditional.

If ’ OTHE - Other significant impact type’ is selected from the enumeration list under swSignificantImpactType, provide details of any other impact types which are relevant in this element. This element should only be reported if the impact type is not included in the enumeration list under swSignificantImpactType.

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Guidance on contents of RBMPs/background documents

(Please see the full text of this sub-section in the WFD Reporting Guidance 2016 or above chapter)

Include here any comments that relate to the information contained in this sub-section of the Reporting Guidance, namely concerning information you think could/should be reported electronically and information which you believe should not be included in the River Basin Management Plans or background documents.

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