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Licentiate thesis, 2001

Swedish environmental quality criteria

Lindberg, Johanna


Sweden has recently presented a new system of Environmental Quality Criteria (EQC) that are expected to support a flexible, goal-oriented approach to environmental management. The EQC of surface water may serve as the basis for implementing the European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD) in Sweden. Useful as EQC can be for establishing management priorities and monitoring changes over time, though, there is a long-standing concern that the simplifications inherent in assessment systems such as EQC compromise their value. One manifestation of this concern was the two decades of active debate before the official adoption by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency in 1990. Understanding the concerns which led to this delay may provide useful insights into the challenges of implementing EQC and even the WFD. The aim of this thesis is to improve the understanding of EQC and their implementation by examining the EQC from both scientific and management perspectives. This is done by first presenting a case study of how the new surface water EQC are applied in river basin, and then through a historical study of the decades leading up to the official adoption of the first surface water EQC. The historical study found that it was not so much a definitive resolution of any scientific problems, but rather developments in management strategies, together with a change in the nature of the environmental problems facing Sweden, that were of most importance for EQC finally being not only sanctioned, but touted in 1999 as a key feature of future environmental management in Sweden. The river basin case study found that EQC could make a valuable contribution to environmental assessment, particularly by bringing a broader spectrum of managers, stakeholders and politicians into contact with environmental data and a coherent overview of the situation in a region. The value of that contribution, however, is contingent upon an expert review of the results that identifies potential problems in the specific EQC application where greater expertise is required for a satisfactory assessment.


environmental impact assessment; environmental policies; analytical methods; water management; water resources; attitudes; sweden

Published in

Rapport / Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Miljöanalys
2001, number: 2001:11
Publisher: Department of Environmental Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Lindberg, Johanna
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Environmental Assessment

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences
Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

URI (permanent link to this page)