EU Water Framework Directive, ecological water quality, classification, environmental goals

NIVA develops scientific tools for the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive through participation in Norwegian and international research projects. We design and operate monitoring programmes and propose mitigation measures, as required by the directive and the corresponding Norwegian water regulation. NIVA thus produces key elements of the scientific basis for river-basin management plans for rivers, lakes and coastal areas.

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 the first 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


Characterisation, classification and intercalibration

NIVA is the only research institute in Norway that offers services to national, regional and local water authorities on classification of ecological status for all the biological and chemical quality elements in both freshwater and coastal waters. We also have extensive competence in environmental contamintants and their distribution in water, sediments and biota.  

NIVA has developed biological indicators for classifying the ecological stateus of rivers, lakes and coastal areas in collaboration with international research organisations. We a variety of models to estimate reference conditions as well as amounts and types of pollution from various sources.

Our research scientists support national water authorities in the process intercalibrating Norwegian classification methods, and with compiling the national classification guidance.


NIVA develops new monitoring tools. Monitoring becomes more comprehensive and cost efficient as we get more data, with higher frequency and from larger areas. The methods utilised are:

Together with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and the Institute of Marine Research we have developed programmes for WFD-compliant surveillance monitoring of aquatic environments in Norway. The surveillance monitoring programmes cover reference sites, as well as sites impacted by all types of pollution (eutrophication, acidification, altered habitats due to hydromorphological disturbances, environmental contaminants) and climate effects.

NIVA is executing both surveillance and operational monitoring, including a pilot project to test the methodology of surveillance monitoring on a selection of lakes in 2009-11. In 2011 we have also been given responsibility for implementing the first surveillance monitoring of coastal areas in the Trøndelag region in Mid-Norway.  

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. 


Anne Lyche Solheim, chief scientist in NIVA and research coordinator for the EU Water Directive
Marianne Olsen, research director
Thorjørn Larssen, deputy managing director

Relevant links

  • 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.
  • Vann-nett (Water Net) is a database and web application with advanced map functions where you can find results of the characterisation of water bodies and data on their water status (ecological and chemical)
  • Vannmiljø (Water Environment)  is a database and web application for monitoring data for various biological and supporting quality elements that are used for the classification of ecological and chemical status of water bodies.
Last updated 16.09.2022