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Intercalibration for Water Framework Directive

The scientific intercalibration exercise for the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) brought together scientific experts to perform required analyses in the most cost-efficient way.


The scientific intercalibration exercise for the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) brought together scientific experts to perform required analyses in the most cost-efficient way.




  • Concluded



€ 279,560


Mar 2014 - Sep 2017

Type of action

Joint Public Procurement

Lead country



The JPI Oceans action added value by:

  • finding experienced scientific expert leads to perform required analyses in the most cost-efficient way for phytoplankton and benthic invertebrate fauna (as there are constraints in the availability of experts of national environmental authorities)
  • reducing fragmentation (of comparison calculation efforts) and increase efficiency in relation to the Water (and Marine Strategy) Framework Directive;
  • increasing experience with joint data collection and analysis;
  • testing a mechanism for joint funding from environmental authorities of nine member countries, surpassing the traditional model of joint calls, to obtain the performance improvements.

The intercalibration action enabled a long-term dialogue between environmental authorities and the scientific community of member countries to solve remaining scientific challenges jointly. A real common pot was created and governed by a research funding body that contracted the different expert leads after a specifically designed questionnaire selection process. All of the scientific intercalibration exercises are having an impact on the thresholds for environmental quality that they are legally bound to reach. Changes to the thresholds were needed for seven out of eleven participating countries (+ for several cases). The in-depth scientific analyses showed that countries were mostly wrong about their initial assessments about comparability or incomparability between each other. Even where countries were previously considered to be consistent with each-other, some scientific analysis showed that this was not entirely the case, because of biogeographical differences not taken into account correctly before. These analyses which adopted a consistent procedure for all, made it easier to demonstrate the scientific basis of the assessments, thus allowing better setting of thresholds.


The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) was adopted in 2000, the purpose being establishment of a framework for protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater. The overall aim for these surface and groundwater ‘water bodies’ is to achieve good chemical and ecological status by 2015.

The essence of intercalibration is to ensure that the definition of ecological status in member countries’ assessment methods for biological quality corresponds to comparable levels of ecosystem alteration. Comparable environmental assessments are of crucial importance for industry to receive equal treatment on environmental sustainability criteria at the European internal market, instead of heterogeneous assessment levels and protection measures.

Significant gaps still existed despite two phases of intercalibration for coastal and transitional waters. A review concluded that a degree of unevenness in the results of intercalibration across Europe reflects differences in the degree to which nations have been politically willing, and/or economically able, to prioritise basic and applied aquatic research and invest in water resource management.

In the past, the expert leads that performed intercalibration comparisons were provided by in-kind contributions of a few member countries. This loaded specific member countries with a lot of responsibility on complex analytical problems, due to the complexity of the analyses and the nature of coastal and transitional waters, without organisational support in performing the required analyses in a cost-efficient way.