Water Framework Directive (WFD) water bodies for Wales

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires the preparation, implementation and review of River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) on a six-year cycle. River Basin Districts (RBD) and the WFD Waterbodies that they comprise are important spatial management units, regularly used in catchment management studies.

River Basin Districts are the main areas for co-ordinating management of the water environment. They comprise river basins and their associated coastal waters. There are 3 River Basin Districts in Wales, , two of which, the Dee and Severn Districts, cross the border between Wales and England.

River basins are made up of lakes, rivers, groundwaters, estuaries and coastal waters, together with the land they drain. The waters of Wales have been divided into water bodies. These are lakes and parts of rivers, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater. They include artificial water bodies, such as canals, and heavily modified water bodies, such as deepened and straightened rivers. Environmental objectives are set for each water body.

Management catchments are the unit of geography for which action plans are drafted in implementing the WFD. Operational catchments are a way of grouping WFD waterbodies together for the purposes of economic appraisal.

Natural Resources Wales publish datasets of RBDs and water bodies as spatial datasets as polylines (Rivers, Canals, Surface Water Transfers) or polygons (Lakes, Transitional waters, Coastal waters, Groundwaters, as well as catchments of the river waterbodies). Some cycle 1 datasets are not available due to licensing restrictions with the underlying datasets.

Datasets available:
Cycle 1 (downloadable): coastal, lake, transitional;
Cycle 2 (all downloadable): RBD, river, river catchments, lake, transitional, coastal, operational catchments, acid sensitive waterbodies.


Study area

Provenance & quality

There are differences between the cycle 1 and cycle 2 catchments.

Correspondence/contact details


Spatial representation type
Spatial reference system
OSGB 1936 / British National Grid


Topic categories
Inland Waters
Hydrography National River Flow and Networks