The key EU directive in the field of surface water quality is the Water Framework Directive (WFD). This aims for a good status of water to be achieved by 2015, or subject to justification, by 2027 at the latest.
The Water Framework Directive stipulates that River Basin Management Plans be prepared for each river basin in Europe. The preparation of the River Basin Management Plan requires a prolonged period of collection, interpretation, planning and stakeholder involvement. To avoid losing momentum, priority measures to improve water quality are determined through River Basin Protection Action Plans. These plans can be prepared in a shorter period and form a forerunner to the more comprehensive River Basin Management Plans.