The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is a new legislative framework to manage, use, protect, and restore surface water and groundwater resources and coastal waters in the European Union (EU). The aim is to ensure sustainable water management and to reach good water quality by 2015. The assessment of the ecological status and setting of the practical management goals require several steps. The process has started with the characterisation of the river basins including identification of surface water bodies and types, and identification of significant anthropogenic pressures and impacts. The water bodies will be classified in five quality classes (high, good, moderate, poor, bad) based on the Ecological Quality Ratio, which is a ratio between reference conditions and measured status of the biological quality elements. The normative criteria for high, good and moderate ecological status described in the WFD need to be made operational because those will be used to set the practical quality targets for surface water management. National ecological assessment systems and classifications will be harmonised through the WFD intercalibration exercise in order to ensure an equal level of ambition in achieving good surface waters status all over Europe.

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