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EU Water Framework Directive and ecological water quality

NIVA develops professional tools for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Norway and Europe through participation in Norwegian and international research projects. We carry out and provide advice on monitoring and measures that are necessary to fulfil the requirements of the Water Framework Directive and the corresponding Norwegian regulation. NIVA thus produces important parts of the scientific basis for management plans for lakes, rivers and coastal areas.

Key scientists
Anne Lyche Solheim

NIVA is the only professional environment in Norway that can offer services to European, national, regional and local water authorities for monitoring and classification of status and trends in ecological and chemical status, including all biological and physico-chemical quality elements.

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) entered into force in Norway in 2008. The directive's main objective is to ensure a good status of surface and ground water by 2021. Norwegian authorities issued a corresponding water regulation (Vannforskriften) that ensures the national implementation of the directive. 

When the river basin districts make and update the river basin management plans (RBMPs), NIVA can contribute by:

  • characterising and classifying water bodies and intercalibrating classification methods
  • monitoring ecological and chemical status
  • recommending mitigation and restoration measures

Characterization, classification and intercalibration

NIVA is the only expert environment in Norway that can offer services to national, regional and local water authorities for monitoring and classification of all biological quality elements with associated water chemistry support parameters in both freshwater and coastal waters. We also have broad expertise in pollutants and their status in water.

In collaboration with international research groups, NIVA has developed a number of biological indicators to classify the ecological status of rivers, lakes and coastal areas. These are also important for assessing the status and trends of biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems.

Our researchers assist the water management authorities with intercalibration of Norwegian classification methods, and with preparing and updating guidance for classification.

We use several models to estimate the reference conditions, as well as to assess which anthropogenic impacts reduce the ecological and chemical status, including calculating the amount and type of pollution from different sources.


NIVA is developing new monitoring technology. Monitoring becomes both more comprehensive and cost-effective by obtaining more data, more frequently and from a larger area. Methods used are:

  • Multi-sensor probes that measure a range of parameters in rivers, large lakes and coastal areas, including temperature, oxygen, chlorophyll, turbidity, pH, conductivity
  • Satellite measurement and sensors on board ferries (Ferrybox)
  • Genetic methods to identify species

Together with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the Institute of Marine Research, we have developed programs for surveillance monitoring of the aquatic environment in Norway. The monitoring programs cover all types of impacts (eutrophication, acidification, regulation, hazardous pollutants) and climate effects. The data generated through these programs provide the basis for classification of ecological and chemical status and trends.

Concerning operational monitoring, NIVA has several contracts with local river basin authorities. We advise regional and local river basin authorities on how to adapt their monitoring programmes to the WFD requirements.

Analysis of mitigation measures and restoration

Several river basins have been investigated to assess which mitigation and restoration measures are needed to achieve the targets for good ecological and chemical status. With these investigations NIVA has contributed to new methods enabling the linking of pollution pressures and ecological status to necessary mitigation and restoration measures, and to rank such measures according to their cost efficiency.

We have extensive experience with the restoration of rivers, lakes and harbours in dialogue with local and regional authorities and industry. 

Relevant information

Vannportalen (The Water Portal) is the official Norwegian webpage for the EU Water Framework Directive. Contains guidances, explanations, topical reports and studies and news from Norwegian WPF-authorities.

VannNett-Portal ( is a database and web application with advanced map functionality where all information related to characterization and classification of the environmental status of all water bodies in rivers, lakes and coastal waters can be found.

Vannmiljø (Water environment) is a database and web application for finding measurement data about the individual water bodies that form the basis for the classification of environmental status.