The Environment Agency has kicked off the first consultation of a programme to identify what needs to be done to protect and improve rivers, lakes and groundwater to meet new European guidelines.

River Basin Planning: Working Together is the first step in the consultative process of developing River Basin Management Plans for each of the River Basin Districts across England and Wales. These plans will set out new and better ways in which the Environment Agency and others will work towards achieving the ecological standards defined in the Water Framework Directive by 2015. A River Basin District is an area of land and associated rivers, groundwater and coastal waters.

Working Together will help people to understand how river basin planning could work in their River Basin District and how and when people can get involved. The consultation has been put together by the Environment Agency, working with the local River Basin District liaison panel. The liaison panel represents the main sectors involved in river basin planning. Panel members can be found via the Environment Agency website at

Water Framework Directive Programme Executive Martin Booth said the Working Together consultation explained the steps the Environment Agency, along with other organisations, would take to draw up plans to improve the water environment across England and Wales.

“There has been very good progress in recent years in improving the health of our water environment. Even so, if pressures, such as pollution and unsustainable water use, are not managed properly in the future, there is a risk that many rivers, lakes and groundwater sites will not meet the environment standards called for by the Water Framework Directive,” Martin Booth said.

“What the Water Framework Directive allows us to do is think about our water environment as a whole.  In the past we’ve often worked on separate plans for addressing different environmental issues. With river basin planning, we now have the opportunity to improve, protect and manage our water environment in a more co-ordinated way.

“It is a challenge and there is still a long way to go. But the first stage showing a timetable and how we intend to develop these plans – and the involvement of others with an interest in the water environment – is important if we are to work together to improve the environment we live in.”

For the first time the Environment Agency is using electronic consultations, where people can view other submissions before contributing their own comments online. The consultation and responses can be viewed on the Environment Agency website at The Working Together consultation closes on 22 June 2007.

The second stage of consultation, due out in late 2007, will identify the significant water management issues in each River Basin District and potential measures to tackle them.