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 11 River Basin Districts in England and Wales. Two cross the border with Scotland, the Solway Tweed District and Northumbria District, and a further two, 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 England and 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.
The Environment Agency 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.
Cycle 1: coastal, lake, transitional (downloadable); RBD, river, management catchments, groundwater, river catchments (not downloadable).
Cycle 2 (all downloadable): RBD, river catchments, lake, transitional and coastal, groundwater operational catchments, groundwater management catchments, surface water operational catchments, surface water management catchments, artificial water operational catchments, artificial water management catchments, river canal and surface water transfers.
Cycle 1 of the WFD was completed in 2015; cycle 2 runs to 2021. There are differences between the waterbodies used within each cycle. The Environment Agency has published a dataset describing the differences between the number of cycle 1 and cycle 2 waterbodies of each type.