Dissolved oxygen as a physico-chemical supporting element in the Water Framework Directive

M. A. Best
A. W. Wither
S. Coates


For transitional and coastal waters the Water Framework Directive identifies 5 “General chemical and physiochemical elements supporting the biological elements”. The five elements are transparency, thermal conditions, oxygenation conditions, salinity and nutrient conditions.

“Supporting” in the context of the directive means that the values of the physicochemical quality elements are such as to support a biological community of a certain ecological status, recognising the fact that biological communities are products of their physical and chemical environment. Physicochemical and hydromophological aspects fundamentally determine the type of water body and habitat, and hence the type specific biological community. The directive does not intended that these supporting elements should be used as surrogates for the biological elements in monitoring. The monitoring and assessment of the physical and physicochemical quality elements will support the interpretation, assessment and classification of the results arising from the monitoring of the biological quality elements.

This paper considers the challenges involved in the development of oxygen standards for the directive, their relationship to the biological elements and normative conditions of the directive and to regulatory requirements.