The Introduction of Water Quality Objectives and Environmental Quality Standards

Page 1 of 9

Closes 7 Oct 2020



In March 2018 the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee made a series of recommendations on future sewerage infrastructure options and how they might impact on bathing water quality in its report “First report 2017-18; Regional Sewage Treatment Strategy, Phase 2”.

In October 2018 DEFA and Manx Utilities (MU) responded to the E&I Policy Review Committee report through an “Interim Scoping Report of what is needed to comply with the EU 2006 Bathing Water Directive”. This report provided an outline of the work required to ensure the Isle of Man achieves compliance with the standards specified in the 2006 Bathing Water Directive.

Within the report, the Strategy for Delivery section included a target of November 2019 to “secure Tynwald approval to adopt bathing water quality standards based on the public health parameters contained in the 2006 Bathing Water Quality Directive and on a strategy for delivering those standards”. The UK consultant APEM was appointed by DEFA in August 2019 to develop this strategy with Phase 1 being approved by Tynwald in December 2019.

The 2018 “Interim Scoping Report of what is needed to comply with the EU 2006 Bathing Water Directive” included a further commitment (Phase 2):-

“By December 2020 secure approval from Tynwald on Manx specific discharge standards and modifications to the licensing provisions in the existing Water Pollution Act which will enable proportionate compliance with the discharge standards. The discharge standards should be based on results from on-going sampling, necessary modelling and a review of the standards adopted in other jurisdictions.  Maximum acceptable levels of contaminants from sources other than discharges (i.e. diffuse run off from farms) should be included in the standards”.

Legal Framework

The Water Pollution Act 1993 requires the Department to protect controlled waters (i.e. river, watercourse, lake, pond, well, borehole or coastal waters) from pollution. Section 2(5) of the Water Pollution Act 1993 requires that any scheme proposed for the classification of quality of controlled waters must have Tynwald approval for it to have effect.

Benefits of introducing Water Quality Objectives and Environmental Quality Standards

Introducing Water Quality Objectives (WQO) and Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) into the Water Pollution Act is important because it will allow the Department to enforce the legislation as intended to protect the environment. The environmental quality standards have been derived from the EU Water Framework Directive, so the parameters and limits are up to date.

A Water Quality Objective (WQO) means the status set by Government for an area of controlled water to be met by a certain date. 

An Environmental Quality Standard (EQS) is defined as the range of concentrations, or just a concentration, of a particular substance in water which should not be exceeded to meet the WQO. For example the WQO recommended for Bathing Waters is Good Status in accordance with the EU 2006 Bathing Water Directive which requires corresponding EQS of Intestinal Enterococci < 200 CFU/100ml and Esherichia Coli < 500 CFU/100ml, see Table 4.

The environmental quality standards will lead to updating water quality objectives for the Island’s watercourses. The current water quality objectives were set by DEFA in 2001.