Water quality guidelines and standards in the marine environment


This Section provides tabulated summaries of the water quality guidelines and standards used for the protection of the marine environment. Once substances of concern have been identified in relation to a particular discharge and some understanding of the fate, behaviour and effects of the substance has been gleaned from Appendices B and C, the appropriate standards, where they exist, can be identified in the tables linked below.

The standards listed are those used by the competent authorities in the management of water quality in the marine environment. They have been derived for a number of purposes, including:

  • the protection of saltwater life (Environmental Quality Standards) (EQSs).
  • the protection of shellfish populations for human consumption in designated shellfish waters; and
  • the protection of human health while bathing in designated waters.

These are the statutory standards that must be observed in receiving marine and estuarine waters and are used in setting discharge consents.

All of the standards in Tables 1,2,3 & 4 are only applicable in the water column. There are no equivalent EQSs for sediments in the UK. However, sediment quality standards have been developed elsewhere in Europe and Canada (Tables 5 and 6).

Environmental Quality Standards (EQSs)

Standards needed to meet other Directive requirements

Sediment quality standards