Memorandum submitted by the Environment
Agency (J 24)
1. The Environment Agency welcomes the Water
Framework Directive (WFD) as a timely and radical improvement
on earlier, piecemeal water legislation. It provides a framework
that allows for integrated and co-ordinated management of all
management of water on a river basin
basis, (requiring the management of land as it affects water and
water dependent habitats);
the development of ecological objectives;
a risk based approach to protection
and restoration of aquatic environments;
an adequate contribution of the different
water uses, particularly industry, households and agriculture,
to the recovery of the costs of water services and;
encouraging active involvement of
all interested parties in water management.
The Directive will thereby safeguard the sustainable
use of water resources across Europe.
2. The WFD draws on the long experience
of integrated water management in England and Wales. In legislative
and institutional terms England and Wales are well placed to implement
the requirements of the Directive. However, the Directive sets
new technical and operational challenges for the Agency and this
will require a major commitment across all its functions. The
Agency is currently consulting on many of the technical issues
in its document "The Water Framework DirectiveGuiding
principles on the technical requirements".
3. The Directive has three principal environmental
objectives for surface water bodies and groundwaters: (i) deterioration
in their status should be prevented, (ii) they should be restored
to good status by 2015 and (iii) areas protected under Community
legislation should be protected or restored to achieve their specific
4. In respect of (ii) the Agency's view
is that where the boundary between status classes "good"
and "moderate" is drawn is a critical issue: too stringent
a classification and the required Programme of Measures would
be disproportionate; at the other extreme the opportunities for
achieving real environmental benefits within the context of sustainable
development would be diminished. The establishment of the boundaries
for good ecological status are part of a Europe wide exercise
in which the Agency is taking a major role.
5. After setting out the principles of the
WFD, the introduction to this Memorandum of Evidence then summarises
some key issues from which the Agency's responses to the specific
questions of the inquiry are developed.
6. The WFD seeks to resolve some of the
conflicting approaches and implementation problems of the forerunner
Directives through a new and integrated approach to the protection,
improvement and sustainable use of Europe's rivers, lakes, groundwaters,
estuaries, and coastal waters. It will also provide important
benefits for wetlands.
7. The WFD embodies the concept of integrated
river basin management. It sets out environmental objectives for
water status based on:
ecological and chemical parameters;
common monitoring and assessment
arrangements for river basin administration
and planning; and
a Programme of Measures in order
to meet the objectives.
8. By taking an inclusive approach to managing
water as it flows off and through land from lakes, wetlands, rivers
and groundwater to estuaries and the sea, the WFD aims:
to prevent further deterioration
and protect and restore the status of aquatic ecosystems.
to require controls of point and
diffuse sources of pollution; thus influencing land management
regimes to enhance water protection;
to reduce progressively pollution
from priority substances and cease or phase out discharges, emissions
and losses of priority hazardous substances;
to protect, enhance and restore all
to contribute to mitigating the effects
of floods and droughts.
9. The objectives of the WFD will be met
through the production of River Basin Management Plans (RBMP),
which will cover all water bodies within a river basin including
rivers, lakes, groundwaters, estuaries and coastal waters as well
as those water bodies which are also wetlands. The main stages
in the production of RBMPs are:
to analyse the current state of River
Basin Districts, the human and natural pressures and the risks
they pose to the water environment;
to assess whether the environmental
objectives of the Directive are likely to be met;
to carry out scientific and technical
appraisals of improvement options, assessing costs and benefits
so as to develop management plans for River Basin Districts, ensuring
the participation of stakeholders; and
to establish a Programme of Measures
that will set out the actions needed to achieve the environmental
objectives of the Directive.
10. The WFD introduces a new definition
of water status, which is concerned with the ecological health
of water bodies as well as with chemical standards. The future
success in managing Europe's water will be judged principally
by the ecological outcomes specified in the Directive.
11. To achieve these ecological outcomes
we will need to understand amongst other things: the interactions
between groundwater and surface water, the relationship between
the water flows and habitats structure in watercourses, and the
interaction of chemical and biological components of water quality.
The management of the separate strands of water quantity, water
quality and physical structure (hydromorphology) for all water
bodies will be brought together into a coherent RBMP.
12. The WFD provides the Agency with the
vehicle for delivering real environmental improvements, the Governments
water quality and quantity objectives and hence delivering the
Agency's Corporate Strategy.
13. The Agency understands that the 2nd
Consultation Paper from the Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) and Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) will
restate their intention to designate the Agency as Competent Authority
for England and Wales. The Agency welcomes the opportunity and
challenge of taking on this pivotal role, but recognises that
in order to achieve the desired outcomes the Agency will need
to work closely with:
the agricultural sector;
Regional and Local Planning Authorities;
other Regulators such as English
Nature and Countryside Council for Wales; and
data and research providers.
14. The Competent Authority will need to
be assured that there are obligations on other statutory bodies
to ensure timely and appropriate participation from them, to allow
the Competent Authority to meet its statutory duties.
15. To date, the focus of the Agency's WFD
activity has been to take a strong role, at both European and
National levels, in many of the Common Implementation Strategy
(CIS) and other working groups. The groups are developing scientific
and technical guidance on definitions and standards. That focus
now needs to shift towards meeting the future milestones in the
implementation programme for the Directive.
16. The Agency has used its knowledge of
the scientific/technical issues to shape the CIS to fit both with
experience from England and Wales and with the current regulatory
systems. This should facilitate the application of the technical
requirements of the WFD. The guidance provided by the CIS, if
effective, will be helpful in achieving a consistent and proportionate
implementation of the Directive.
17. Defra has so far approved the commitment
of resources for an Agency WFD programme, developing of Agency
policy and technical guidance and providing advice to government.
This has also enabled Agency to provide inputs into the CIS working
groups and expert fora in Europe. The Agency is discussing with
Defra its future requirements for staff and other resources to
deliver the further requirements of the WFD Programme.
18. Commitment of resources for the medium
and long-term is essential to ensure continuity and effective
implementation of the WFD.
19. The problem of managing diffuse pollution,
not just from agriculture but also from runoff from other land-uses
such as urban developments and transport infrastructure, as well
as discharges from abandoned mineral workings, will require changes
to existing policies and planning procedures. The Agency believes
that a balance of flexible policy instruments and regulatory approaches
will be required and that the mid-term review of the CAP provides
an opportunity to implement some of these measures. Comments are
given in the separate Memorandum of Evidence to the Committee's
inquiry on the mid-term review of the CAP.
20. The Agency considers that planning authorities
should be under a duty to take account of WFD objectives when
developing Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans.
21. Appropriate implementation of the Strategic
Environment Assessment (SEA) Directive for plans and programmes
will assist the integrated planning and effective delivery of
22. The requirements for integrated management
of river basins mean that clear links will need to be established
with strategies for flood defence and Catchment Flood Management
Plans (CFMPs). This is an important issue given the priority being
set by the Government for enhanced investment in flood management.
23. Implementing the Directive provides
the opportunity to develop and manage comprehensive River Basin
Management plans, linking with other national programmes including;
flood management and conservation. The complexity of the WFD and
its ambitious objectives mean that there are risks to its successful
implementation and delivery. Joint action by Defra/WAG, the Agency
and other stakeholders will be required to manage and mitigate
24. Risks to successful delivery include:
the scale of the technical challenge
in understanding and agreeing the Directive's definitions of water
status across Europe;
opportunities for improved management
of diffuse pollution may be lost or delayed if reform of the CAP
does not recognise the linkage to the implementation of the WFD;
over-prescriptive approaches to characterisation
divert attention from delivery of the benefits of the WFD in a
timely and effective way and to promote decision making at the
lack of clarity in roles and powers
of Agency as Competent Authority; and
other stakeholders are unable or
unwilling to provide sufficient commitment and resources to meet
the Directive's objectives and timetables.
By what means, and over what timetable, the Government
intends to implement the Directive in the UK?
25. Defra is the Government Department responsible
for ensuring the transposition and implementation of the WFD in
England, with the Welsh Assembly Government taking that role in
Wales in close co-ordination with Defra. It has consulted with
the Agency amongst others via an Implementation Steering Group.
26. It is understood that the next Consultation
Paper from Defra/WAG will provide greater detail on its strategy
for implementation and confirm its intention to appoint the Agency
as Competent Authority. This appointment would fit well with the
Agency's current duties and powers as an environmental regulator,
but in order to perform this role effectively additional resources
would be needed. Other statutory bodies also may need clear direction
and additional resources to achieve the aims of the Directive.
27. The Agency considers that in many cases
the objectives of the WFD will not be achieved without a major
reduction in diffuse pollution arising from a range of sectors
and activities, and that a mix of mechanisms from regulations
to incentives will be the most cost-effective way of stimulating
reductions in pollution.
28. There is a detailed legislative, institutional
and policy framework in England and Wales, which will facilitate
the implementation of those elements of the WFD relating to water
resources. In particular, these include: the Agency's water resources
strategies, audit role in respect of water companies' resource
and drought plans, Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies
(CAMS) and the provisions of the Water Resources Act 1991 relating
to abstraction licensing and management. However, there are some
significant omissions in respect of abstraction licensing, which
the proposed Water Bill will address and which will be essential
for successful implementation of the WFD.
29. Since the WFD is a consolidation of
previous European water legislation, the Agency would wish to
see some consolidation of UK legislation relating to groundwater.
The Agency is concerned that the envisaged daughter Directive
on groundwater should not add to the difficulty of regulating
groundwater effectively. In the light of the Agency's experience
of implementing the existing Groundwater Directive the Agency
would wish to ensure that any new measures should allow a practical
and risk based approach to groundwater protection and improvement.
30. Man-made changes to river morphology
can play a key role in creating and improving or damaging environmental
status and habitats. Important advances in providing flood management,
whilst at the same time maintaining or improving environmental
status, have been made through Catchment Flood Management Plans
(CFMPs). The ecological health of aquatic ecosystems is often
also dependent on the nature of land close to the water body and
the whole issue of flood plain management has to be given a more
central role in delivering the requirements of the WFD.
31. The Directive sets out a series of implementation
deadlines through to 2015, the date by which environmental objectives
must be met; these dates are shown in Table 2.1 of the Agency's
consultation document on the technical requirements. Some re-alignment
of the Agency's existing programmes and re-allocation of resources
are likely to be required to ensure that the WFD deadlines can
be met. The first and challenging deadline will be the Characterisation
of River Basins required by December 2004
What will be the costs of implementing the Directive,
how the costs will be met, how they will be apportioned, and the
implications for water pricing policy?
32. The main costs of implementing the WFD
will fall into the following categories:
investments and operating costs to
improve water quality, water resources and habitat structure;
collecting and analysing information;
33. Some of the costs would already have
been incurred as a result of other existing statutory requirements
that will contribute to the implementation of the WFD and therefore
should not be attributed as a WFD cost. Examples include:
the provisions of the draft Water
Bill which will impose an additional cost on the performance of
the Agency's water resources duties; and
the restoration of a sustainable
flow regimes requiring compensation of abstractors whose licences
are shown to be damaging the environment.
34. The Agency welcomes the indications
from Defra that it will review the current estimates of costs
and benefits of implementing the WFD and bring them up to date.
This will provide a comparison with the recently published research
on costs and benefits of the Water Environment and Water Services
(Scotland) Bill. Other stakeholders including Water UK have commissioned
work to update earlier analysis, but results are not expected
within the timeframe of the written evidence for this inquiry.
35. The Agency is developing a method for
assessing the costs and effectiveness of options in RBMPs through
its case study of the Ribble (Technical Report on Integrated Appraisal
of River Basin Management Plans, July 2002). Proper assessment
of costs is essential to preparation of appropriate Programme
How costs will be met
36. The costs of the WFD their apportionment
and the planned revision of the Regulatory Impact Assessment are
covered in the Defra memorandum.
37. The Agency's Ribble study, which has
been undertaken with wide stakeholder participation addresses
both effectiveness and costs. It identifies, through practical
worked examples, the key issues involved in carrying out cost-effectiveness
analysis in an even handed and transparent way as part of the
economic analysis of water use in each River Basin Management
Plan. The issues are complex and methods will need to be found
to present the options in an accessible way during public consultation
on the basin plans. The Directive allows for the achievement of
good status to be delayed if costs can be shown to be disproportionate
and work has begun to assess how such judgements might be made
in a consistent manner.
Implications for water pricing policy
38. Water prices are set by the water companies,
subject to limits and conditions established by OFWAT, within
a policy framework set by Defra/WAG and legislation. The Agency,
together with English Nature and the Countryside Council for Wales,
recommends the environmental benefits to be achieved by water
company investment programmes for water quality and water resources.
These environmental priorities have begun to be, and will be increasingly,
influenced by the objectives of the WFD. Some aspects of diffuse
pollution, such as leaking sewers, can be attributed to the water
industry and can be dealt with under the above framework as part
of asset maintenance. The allocation of the cost of addressing
most forms of diffuse pollution, from both urban and agricultural
land, will be harder to assess and recover. More work needs to
be done, particularly in the context of other funding mechanisms,
such as CAP and investment in urban regeneration, which influence
the management of land that provides potential sources of diffuse
pollution. The Agency's economic analysis will be able to provide
advice on the implications of pricing options in the appraisal
of the Programmes of Measures in RBMPs.
The role that the Environment Agency will take
in implementing the Directive?
39. Defra has indicated that for the purposes
of the WFD the Environment Agency will be the Competent Authority
for England and Wales, and that the 2nd Defra/WAG Consultation
Paper will cover the scope and range of the legal and administrative
responsibilities and powers required.
40. The Agency currently has responsibility
over a wide range of activities required by the WFD (some of these
are detailed in Tables 9.2 and 9.3 of the Agency's technical requirements
consultation document). Many of these activities will need modifying
or enhancing to meet WFD needs. For example, the public registers
maintained by the Agency do not include unlicensed abstractionsan
omission which the Water Bill should address; and monitoring networks,
in particular for groundwater quality, will need enhancing which
will entail capital outlay.
41. As Competent Authority the Agency will
be active in a wide range of activities that include:
participation and/or leadership of
Working Groups in the Common Implementation Strategy;
identification of River Basin Districts,
categorisation of water bodies, review of impact of human activity
on water quality and co-ordination of the production of River
Basin Management Plans;
contribution of relevant information
to the Secretary of State relating to the required economic analysis
of uses of water;
maintaining registers of protected
areas, which include water bodies designated for abstraction for
establishing and undertaking water
status monitoring programmes;
co-ordinating and updating Programmes
of Measures for achieving desired water status;
management and review of abstraction
controls and point source discharges;
controlling diffuse pollution (in
conjunction with other authorities), subject to delegated authority
from Defra/Secretary of State;
ensuring hydromorphological conditions
are consistent with the required water body status; and
consultation on RBMPs and promotion
of stakeholder participation.
42. The economic analysis required by the
WFD is more wide-ranging and explicit than previous European water
directives, and a new challenge to the designated Competent Authority.
Since 1989 the Agency and its predecessors have undertaken economic
analyses for various regulatory processes. Given appropriate guidance
and information gathering powers by the Secretary of State, the
Agency is ready to play its role in contributing to the economic
43. The Agency will need to have the capacity
to undertake the characterisation, planning and measures to deliver
the objectives. Whilst the Agency holds core data for characterisation
and has powers to help meet the objectives (eg abstraction and
discharge controls) at its disposal, these alone will not be sufficient.
In addition, there will also be a need to ensure that other planning
frameworks and policies take account of the needs of water management
and the interaction with land use planning.
44. The Agency will seek to provide appropriate
support to Government Departments, Local and Regional Planning
Authorities, Statutory and other bodies involved in land-use planning
and management, sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) and
the development of Catchment Flood Management Plans.
45. Through its forward planning process
the Agency will need:
to align the programming and scope
of its on-going activities such as CAMS with the requirements
of the WFD;
to convert/re-align existing monitoring
and reporting responsibilities and timetable into those required
for the WFD;
to provide appropriate links/liaison
with other organisations who undertake monitoringwater
companies, for example may not monitor raw water at a regional
scale, and at the point of abstraction may monitor only treated
to continue and enhance the public
consultation processes that it currently undertakes
Monitoring and reporting
46. The development of appropriate monitoring
systems will involve identifying suitable indicators and establishing
reference conditions. This is one of the biggest technical challenges
in implementing the Directive, but much progress has already been
made. The Agency can build on its existing experience and expertise,
which put it at the forefront of initiatives to develop a common
approach to monitoring requirements for the Directive.
47. Monitoring programmes will provide targeted
information to help identify, assess and manage environmental
problems and thus support the new regulatory regime based on river
basin management planning. These programmes will supplement and
validate risk assessments, establish the status of water bodies
at risk, provide information on long-term trends, and evaluate
the effectiveness of the Programmes of Measures.
48. The status of water bodies needs to
be reported against a range of biological, chemical and hydromorphological
parameters. Agency functions already generate much of the required
data and in addition to new data there will be a need to integrate
this current information effectively. To address these needs,
the Agency is putting in place plans to meet the integrated IT
infrastructure needs of the WFD.
Whether the definitions of, for example, what
constitutes a river basin and significant human activity have
been clarified sufficiently to allow management plans to be formed
49. Much of the common understanding of
WFD requirements and terms is being developed through the Common
Implementation Strategy working groups. The Agency either leads
or is represented in the majority of groups so will have a large
input to the definition of terms.
50. The 1st Consultation Paper asked for
comments and opinion on a number of definitions. It is understood
that Defra/WAG has taken responses into account for the 2nd Consultation
51. The Agency's consultation document on
technical requirements sets out its proposal for the definition
of the various terms used in the Directive. A review of stakeholder
responses and opinions is not available at the time of this written
evidence as the consultation period closes at the end of September
52. The Agency believes that the precise
wording of definitions will be important; incorrect or inappropriate
definitions could result either in increased and unnecessary costs,
or in inadequate implementation of the Directive. Through its
involvement with the CIS, in its representations to Defra and
through the technical consultation, the Agency has argued against
definitions that might undermine the current comprehensive legislative,
technical and policy foundation for water management in England
What the tangible benefits of the Directive are
likely to be and whether its objectives can be achieved in a cost
53. The WFD provides a mechanism for achieving
the sustainable use of water by conflating the requirements of
the disparate range of Directives through which environmental
planning and management is currently carried out, and aligning
these with current policy and vision statements.
54. A specific policy benefit of the WFD
is that it brings a broad range of environmental objectives together
with those of pollution control. In particular it provides a framework
for regulatory and non-regulatory measures to prevent diffuse
pollution, which can only be tackled in a piecemeal way at present.
Through the emphasis on basin plans and Programmes of Measures
it provides a means of better integrating land use, agriculture
and water protection policies.
55. The WFD's integrated approach to hazardous
substances will deliver benefits not achievable through other
means. The Priority List of dangerous substances which present
a significant risk to humans via the aquatic environment will
be subject to Europe-wide controls and standards in measures aimed
at the progressive reduction of pollution from discharges. Within
this list are the Priority Hazardous Substances (PHSs) in respect
of which discharges, emissions and losses to the aquatic environment
should cease or be phased out.
56. The WFD changes the focus of the analysis
of benefits. First the costs of a Programme of Measures to achieve
the desired status are estimated. Then the question is whether
these costs are considered to be disproportionate, taking account
of benefits. The analysis then informs Defra's decisions on whether
derogation is needed in terms of either less stringent objectives
or extended deadlines.
57. Specific provisions are included in
the WFD to ensure that cost-effectiveness issues are considered.
58. Judgements about the cost-effectiveness
of a Programme of Measures designed to achieve "good"
status for a given water body will be based on information that
has to be collected by December 2004. Such judgements will influence
the scope and content, and hence cost of all Programmes of Measures.
Decisions on the definition of status classifications taken early
in the Programme could therefore have a fundamental impact on
the level of costs and hence cost-effectiveness much later.
59. Implementing the WFD will be a challenging
scientific, technical and administrative task for Government,
the Competent Authority and all stakeholders. However it offers
a real opportunity for delivering a wide range of environmental
benefits consistent with the Government's sustainable development
objectives and the Agency's Corporate Strategy.
For further information, contact Paul Logan,
Water Framework Directive Programme Manager, Environment Agency.
Tel: 01491 828631; [email protected]
27 September 2002