UK starts EU water law compliance process

Government pledges European leadership in transposing framework directive by December 2003

The British government took an early lead among its EU partners today by launching initial proposals for implementing the major European water framework directive. The directive will usher in the most far-reaching changes in European water management for a generation. It took effect at the end of last year and EU governments must transpose it into national law by December 2003 (ENDS Daily 4 January).

According to a consultation paper concerning just England and Wales, existing legislation and responsibilities of the Anglo-Welsh environment agency give Britain "a good basis of knowledge and techniques" to meet the directive's obligations. But it notes that "much preparatory work still needs to be done," and warns that there is "therefore no time to lose".

An initial "regulatory impact assessment" suggests that implementation costs will be in the range UK£2-9.2bn (euros 3.2-14.7bn), with sewerage operators, agriculture and industry in the front line. It suggests that developments since the estimates were made in 1998 could mean some fall in costs.

Eleven "river basin districts" are proposed to be created in England and Wales, three covering the catchments of the rivers Dee, Severn and Thames and the rest covering several river basins. The paper also suggests steps towards meeting the directive's requirement for reviews of the status of, and human impacts in, each river basin. At least two further rounds of consultation are promised.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 20 79 44 30 00, and the consultation paper.

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