Anglo-Welsh water firms face tougher rules

Government proposes higher penalties for legal breaches, new duty to conserve water

Tough penalties for water companies that fail to protect the environment and consumers in the course of abstracting, supplying and disposing of water have been proposed in a draft water law for England and Wales unveiled by the UK environment ministry yesterday.

The proposals would quadruple the maximum fine for companies supplying water unfit for human consumption to UK£20,000 (euros 33,260). The consultation paper also calls for views on how the current system of policing drinking water quality could be strengthened.

Abstraction licensing would be overhauled, including measures to prevent over-abstraction at sites designated under the 1992 EU habitats directive and 1979 wild birds directive. Official bodies English Nature and the anglo-welsh environment agency have identified up to 350 sites, some listed under the EU habitats directive, as being at risk of damage to wildlife and the environment.

Water companies would be given a new statutory obligation to conserve water and would be asked to maintain up-to-date, publicly available drought plans with the environment agency. The consultation period lasts until January.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 20 79 44 30 00, draft law, environmental appraisal and press release.

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