UK Groundwater Forum. From left to right Images Copyright Derek Ball BGS ©NERC 1999, Jude Cobbings BGS ©NERC 2003, Terry Marsh CEH ©1991, Emily Crane BGS ©NERC 2004
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Policy and legislative drivers relevant to groundwater management

Here we identify European legislation that is driving environmental management in the UK and the national legislation that enforces this within England and Wales (note, we aim to incorporate legislation for Scotland and Northern Ireland in the future). Delivery mechanisms and other aspects of policy are also included.

If you identify gaps in the legislation covered, please contact us and we will aim to address this.

The drivers are grouped in the following four categories although note there is significant overlap between these:

Water Framework Directive and other related EU legislation

EU Water Framework Directive Requires that all inland and coastal waters within defined river basin districts achieve good status by 2015 and defines how this should be achieved through the establishment of environmental objectives and ecological targets for groundwater and surface waters. Transposed into law in England and Wales via the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003.
EU groundwater Directive (1980)
Groundwater Daughter Directive (2006)
Groundwater Regulations (2009)
The Groundwater Daughter Directive (GDD) clarifies certain objectives of the Water Framework Directive relating to prevention and control of groundwater pollution and establishes groundwater quality standards. It will run alongside the Groundwater Directive (1980) until 2013 when the Groundwater Directive will be repealed. The GDD takes a slightly more comprehensive and more risk-based approach to pollution prevention and control than the 1980 Directive. The transposition of the GDD into law in England & Wales is achieved through the Groundwater Regulations (2009). These powers are implemented in England and Wales though the Environmental Permitting Regulations (2010) and two Directions to the Environment Agency from the Secretary of State and National Assembly for Wales. The first Direction sets out the principles for classifying groundwater and surface water bodies and the second Direction sets out water quality standards and groundwater threshold values.
EU Priority Substances Directive The Directive includes environmental quality standards in surface water for the concentrations of priority substances posing a threat to or via the aquatic environment. It replaces five existing Directives. The Directive has been transposed by means of a revised Direction to the Environment Agency on water quality standards and groundwater threshold values.

Groundwater protection and agriculture-related legislation, delivery mechanisms and policy

Groundwater Protection Policy and Practice A framework for the Environment Agency’s regulation and management of groundwater. Four associated documents set out high level approaches, the technical background, the tools used and the legal and policy framework. These provide reference for anyone undertaking an operation or development that could affect groundwater.
Catchment Sensitive Farming Programme Catchment sensitive farming is about working with farmers and land owners to reduce diffuse pollution of water within sensitive catchments. This is delivered through the England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative. Fifty priority catchments in England form part of a delivery initiative.
EU Nitrates Directive Aims to reduce water pollution caused by nitrogen from agricultural sources and to prevent such pollution in the future through: designation of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones of all land draining to waters that are affected by nitrate pollution; establishment of a voluntary code of good agricultural practice; and an Action Programme of measures for the purposes of tackling nitrate loss from agriculture reviewed at least every four years. Implemented in England via the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2008.
Common Agricultural Policy Reform Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) drives support for agriculture in the EU. The structure of the CAP can have significant impacts on the future of agriculture and its impact on the environment. CAP reform is looking to encourage sustainable development and further decouple payments from production. CAP also encompasses incentive schemes, such as Environmental Stewardship in England that can provide significant benefits to the environment.

National regulation and delivery mechanisms related to protecting water resources and the water industry

Water Resources Act 1991 Sets out the responsibilities of the Environment Agency of England and Wales in relation to water pollution, resource management, flood defence, fisheries, and in some areas, navigation. The Act regulates discharges to controlled waters, namely rivers, estuaries, coastal waters, lakes and groundwaters.
Water Act 2003 Aims to improve water conservation, protect public health and the environment, and improve the service offered to consumers. The Act is in three parts relating to water resources, regulation of the water industry and other provisions. This includes significant changes to water abstraction authorisation, with water company drought plans and water resource management plans becoming statutory requirements.
Restoring Sustainable Abstraction Programme The Restoring Sustainable Abstraction (RSA) Programme was set up by the Environment Agency in 1999 to identify and catalogue those sites which may be at risk from water abstraction. The RSA programme is a way of prioritising and progressively examining and resolving these concerns.
Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies Provide a consistent and structured approach to local water resources management, recognising the reasonable needs of abstractors and the needs of the environment. Strategy documents are produced as part of the CAMS process.
Periodic Review of water price limits A financial review process whereby Ofwat determines the price limits that water companies can increase or decrease the prices charged to customers over the next 5 year period. The price limits for 2010 to 2015 were set in 2009. The price limits are set to enable water companies to deliver the services required of them including allowing for capital maintenance of assets, ensuring security of supply and meeting drinking water and environmental quality requirements. The water companies submit Asset Management Plans (AMP) to Ofwat including environmental improvement schemes, the successful schemes forming the National Environment Programme.

Other policy, legislation and delivery mechanisms

EU Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive A regulatory system that employs an integrated approach to control the environmental impact to air, land and water of emissions arising from industrial activities.
EU Floods Directive Designed to help Member States prevent and limit floods and their damaging effects on human health, the environment, infrastructure and property. Includes a requirement to assess the risks associated with groundwater flooding and manage these where significant. This is transposed into law in England and Wales through the Flood Risk Regulations 2009 and the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.
EU Habitats Directive To promote the maintenance of biodiversity by taking measures to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species at a favourable conservation status, introducing robust protection for those habitats and species of European importance. Transposed into national laws by means of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive The assessment of the effects of certain Authority plans and programmes on the environment requiring a formal environmental assessment.
Government's water strategy: Future Water (PDF) Previous Government’s view on how it wanted the water sector to look by 2030. Includes aspects such as demand management, water supply, water quality in the natural environment, surface water drainage and river and coastal flooding. On the whole it refers to existing or proposed legislation, the relevant of which are described on this web page.
Water Level Management Plans(PDF) Launched by the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1991, these provide a means by which the water level requirements for a range of activities in a particular area, including agriculture, flood defence and conservation, can be balanced and integrated.
Climate Change Act 2008 Introduces a long term legally binding framework to tackle the potential impacts of climate change. Includes reporting on the risks to the UK of climate change and the publication of a programme setting out how these impacts will be addressed.
Planning Policy ‘Town and Country Planning’ is the land use planning system by which government seek to maintain a balance between economic development and environmental quality. Current planning legislation for England and Wales is consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. National planning policies are set out in new-style Planning Policy Statements (PPS), which are gradually replacing Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPG). The Environmental Permitting Regulations (England and Wales) 2010 have established a new, single consent regime for nationally significant transport, energy, water and waste infrastructure projects. The case for nationally significant infrastructure, integrating social, economic and environmental policies will be set out in eleven National Policy Statements including ‘water supply’ and ‘waste water’.
Government's Natural Environment White Paper The Coalition Programme for the new Government sets out a range of committments relating to the natural environment and includes a committment to produce a White Paper on the natural environment by Spring 2011. A consultation document about the White Paper, 'An invitation to shape the Nature of England' has been produced and includes discussion of the water environment.
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