CHAPTER 2: Implementation of EU water
12. It is 12 years since the Water Framework
Directive (WFD) was adopted, and more than two years since the
deadline of December 2009 for Member States to produce their first
round of River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) under the Directive.
The European Commission has judged it to be the right time to
evaluate the state of implementation of the WFD and other water-related
legislation, as the basis for the Blueprint which it will publish
this year. Its approach was described as follows: "Our point
of departure is that what can be fixed through better implementation
should be fixed through better implementation rather than through
grand new schemes. Also, the problems that we identified that
can be fixed through better policy coherence and better integration
with other policies should give priority to that way of dealing
with them ... We will come to a residuum that we cannot deal with
efficiently in that way, and that will be the scope for new measures."
13. We welcome this approach. We focussed much
of our inquiry on experience of implementing the WFD and other
EU legislation on water management, in other Member States as
well as in the UK. We set out our findings below.
The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)
|Under the Water Framework Directive, the basic management units for river basin management planning are the River Basin Districts (RBDs) that may comprise one or more river basins (and include as appropriate lakes, streams, rivers, groundwater and estuaries, together with the coastal waters into which they flow).
The WFD requires that river basin management plans (RBMPs) must be developed, and reviewed on a six-yearly basis, specifying the actions required within each RBD to achieve set environmental quality objectives. RBMPs must identify discrepancies between the existing status of rivers and other water bodies, and that required by the WFD, so that a programme of measures can be put in place to achieve the desired goals. The planning process should include an economic analysis of all water uses in each RBD, as well as determining the pressures and impacts on the water environment. A key element of this process is public information and consultation.
All water bodies are assigned to one of the Directive's five status classes: high, good, moderate, poor or bad. The WFD requires that all inland, estuarial and coastal waters within RBDs must reach at least good status by 2015. This is based on an assessment of ecological, chemical and quantitative criteria. There are more limited criteria for assessing the status of heavily modified and artificial water bodies; groundwater status is assessed on quantitative and chemical criteria alone.
There are over 30 differing criteria for assessing the status of rivers, lakes, transitional waters and coastal waters, but they all include consideration of:
- biological quality, including presence or absence of various algae, plants, fish and invertebrates;
- physical and chemical quality, including oxygenation and nutrient conditions;
- environmental quality standards for levels of specific pollutants, such as pesticides; and
- physical aspects that support the biological quality of the water body, such as the quantity and dynamics of water flow (hydro-morphological quality).
If part of a water body fails on any one of the criteria monitored, it will fail to achieve or lose good status. This is described as the "one out all out" approach.
There are a number of exemptions to the general objectives, including disproportionate cost, that allow for less stringent objectives, extension of the deadline beyond 2015 or the implementation of new projects. For all these exemptions, strict conditions must be met and a justification must be included in the river basin management plan.
Member States were required by the WFD to prepare RBMPs by December 2009; key subsequent deadlines are 2015, 2021 and 2027. In each case, environmental objectives set out in RBMPs should have been achieved six years after the RBMPs were prepared, and improved objectives should be specified for achievement over the next cycle of river basin planning of the following six years. Catchment Flood Management Plans, produced to meet the requirements of the Floods Directive (2007/60/EC), must be co-ordinated and synchronised with RBMPs.
Member States' governments have to designate organisations to act as "competent authorities" within their territories for taking forward implementation of the WFD. The UK Government have designated the Environment Agency to carry out this role in England and Wales; the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland; and the Environment and Heritage Service in Northern Ireland. A map showing the UK River Basin Districts is included at Appendix 5.
Implementation in other EU Member States
14. In 2001, the Commission and Member States agreed a Common
Implementation Strategy (CIS) for the WFD, to develop a shared
understanding of the technical challenges posed by implementation.
Water Directors from the Member States meet regularly to share
knowledge and offer guidance. The Commission told us that it was
one of the advantages of the CIS that Member States could draw
on their experience under the WFD "to facilitate implementation
in Member States that, because of lack of knowledge or resources,
are less able to tackle the issues on their own."
15. Many, if not all, Member States have found
implementation of the WFD challenging. Preparation of RBMPs has
required major efforts. At the beginning of 2012, four Member
StatesBelgium, Greece, Portugal and Spainhad not
yet adopted RBMPs, and the Commission had taken legal action against
them. The Commission told us that Belgium, Greece and Portugal
expected to adopt their RBMPs in 2012, and Spain in 2013. Incomplete
implementation across the EU as a whole brings the risk that a
proper assessment of the impact of the WFD may be hampered by
the lack of evidence from Member States that have not yet put
the Directive into practice, and this in turn impedes any process
of identifying changes that may need to be made.
16. We heard from Mr Frédéric de
Hemptinne, an environmental consultant with expertise in EU water
policy, about the difficulties that Member States have encountered.
He saw four key obstacles: costs that were not foreseen when the
Directive was adopted; the scale of the change required, which
has necessitated new approaches to co-ordination of different
agencies within Member States; the innovative nature of the participative
and inclusive approach to catchment management (see Chapter 4);
and the extent to which the holistic approach of the WFD has brought
to light previously unforeseen problems.
17. The evidence which we heard from the German
government chimed with this. Their representative said that Germany
would have "problems achieving the objectives of the Water
Framework Directive" and would extend deadlines from 2015
to 2021 and 2027: "we are living in a densely populated state,
and a lot of things have been done, especially to the hydro-morphology
of surface water bodies. We have a situation where quick improvements
are not really possible."
In Germany, water management responsibilities rested with a three-tier
administrative structure in each Federal State: the State Ministry,
the district administration, and the municipality. While guidance
on the implementation of the WFD was being developed at the EU
level, decisions would be taken by each of the administrative
tiers, but that "for the local administrations, a lot of
the provisions of the Directive have not come down to them yet
or are not understood yet."
The economic situation of the administrations was also relevant.
18. The Commission acknowledged that the governance
provisions of the WFDriver basin management, and stakeholder
involvementamounted to a "very significant ... reform".
The WFD took a top-down and a bottom-up approach to promoting
governance, setting a framework, but leaving room for local flexibility.
The CIS acted as a means of offering guidance on stakeholder involvement:
"The Commission is ready to continue down this road of promoting
good governance, because we believe that good governance is the
way to get improvements in water management."
19. Representatives of the WWF made the point
that implementation of the WFD went beyond the preparation of
RBMPs. WWF (UK) explained that the Commission was "still
looking at whether countries have put plans out, not necessarily
looking at the content of them".
The WWF's European Policy Office added that, while "about
80% of the EU's territory and population are already covered by
plans that still need to be implemented", the RBMPs "still
need to be translated into real action. So there is a bit of an
issue that some of these Member States need to speed up to meet
the deadline and invest a bit more in river basin management planning."
20. We took evidence about the methodology which
underpins the classification of waters under the WFD. Monitoring
of quality is based on over 30 criteria, grouped into ecological
status (including biology, and "elements" such as phosphorus
and pH) and chemical status ("priority substances":
see Box 2). It uses a principle of "one out, all out":
if measurement of only one of the 30 criteria falls short, that
one result determines the overall assessment of the water's quality.
21. Mr de Hemptinne said that working towards
an agreed understanding of how "good ecological status"
should be defined under the WFD had taken a lot of effort; but
this had produced "essential progress ... ecological systems
are not simple ... so the assessment cannot be simple".
Asked about relaxing the "one out all out" principle,
the German government said that "we should not relax things,
and especially not change things".
22. Witnesses from the water industry raised
concerns about the scientific credibility of the tests, implementation
in other Member States and possible cost implications, and they
argued for more flexibility around whether a water course achieved
good status. Whilst
recognising that "good status" was a useful indicator
of long-term sustainability in a catchment, the Environment Agency
also argued that, because it can be failed in so many ways and
because the public will find some aspects of it difficult to value,
a more public-facing set of interim indicators and values was
23. The WWF (UK) said that the principle had
been criticised on the grounds of statistical and theoretical
uncertainties, namely, an increasing risk of a false negative
as more and more elements were monitored; in practice, however,
it was "not playing out as a problem at the moment",
and the classification was only one step in the overall process
of planning for good ecological status.
We heard from the WWF European Policy Office that there was an
issue of communication; progress was being made, for example,
in improving the biological status of UK waters, but "because
of the chemical status and because of the 'one out all out' principle,
some of the water bodies will remain red despite the fact that
... there is life coming back to those water bodies."
24. Overall, while our witnesses recognised that
there had been difficulties with aspects of implementing the Directive,
they shared a consensus that the WFD had been a force for good
in EU water resource management. They tended to agree that it
did not need to be significantly changed at the current time,
not least because of the long time period needed to secure acceptance
and implementation of the Directive, filtering down from national
levels to the local levels where it has to be applied.
25. The German Government said that it was a
successful Directive, providing an EU-wide coherent and systemic
approach to water management, and that its "added value"
was demonstrated by the much-improved co-operation between Member
States on water resources, particularly where rivers cross international
boundaries. Its representative
agreed that the WFD's targets were very ambitious and that the
target that all water bodies should have good status by 2027 was
"impossible ... nevertheless, the Directive gives us the
push to get better. I think there will be real improvements."
Her own view was "no more directives, but do not change the
26. Evidence provided to us by the Environment
Agency (EA) shed light on the extent to which some Member States
had achieved "good status" for their water bodies in
2009, and the ambition which they had shown in planning for improvements
by 2015. For France, the 2009 figure was 40%, planned to rise
to 67% in 2015; for Germany, the 2009 figure was 22%, rising to
29% in 2015; for the Netherlands, the figure in 2009 was 4%, and
an improvement to 20% was planned; for the UK, the 2009 figure
was 24%, and a rise to 37% was planned for 2015.
We asked the EA to comment on the reasons why France planned an
increase in "good status" from 40% to 67% from 2009
to 2015, while the UK would only go from 24% to 37%. In written
evidence, the EA said that some of the French data might be "skewed
by uncertainty. Some 30% of their water bodies had uncertain chemical
status. By 2015, the French expect the majority of these waters
to turn out to have good chemical status, and where this coincides
with existing good ecological status then overall status will
then be classed as good."
27. The Commission told us that, for the "fitness
check", it had held its final stakeholder meeting in February
2012, which had shown that stakeholders considered the WFD as
the right instrument to improve water quality and as providing
the right balance, "but some have said that they need more
Priority substances are those identified as presenting
a significant risk to or via the aquatic environment within the
EU. These are listed in Annex X to the Water Framework Directive
Some substances are identified as priority hazardous
substances, because they have "ubiquitous, persistent,
bio-accumulative and toxic" properties. Bio-accumulation
is the progressive increase in the amount of a substance in an
organism or part of an organism which occurs because the rate
of intake exceeds the organism's ability to remove the substance
from the body.
One example of a priority hazardous substance is
perfluorooctane sulfonic acid. The acid and its derivatives
are collectively known as PFOS, and are widely used in
a variety of consumer goods. They are man-made chemicals which
break down into perfluorooctane sulfonate, a chemical
that is a persistent organic pollutant. Once such pollutants are
in the environment, they are very difficult to get rid of. They
can cross international boundaries by air and water currents,
and bio-accumulate to toxic levels in plants and animals.
Environmental quality standards (EQS) for these priority
substances are set by the Environmental Quality Standards Directive
(EQSD) 2008/105/EC, which is a "daughter" Directive
of the WFD. The EQSs are set at levels of concentration which
are safe for the aquatic environment and for human health. Compliance
with these standards forms the basis of good chemical status under
In addition to the objective of achieving such EQSs,
there is an objective of the progressive reduction of discharges
of priority substances, and a requirement to stop discharges of
priority hazardous substances within 20 years of appropriate measures
The WFD requires the Commission to review the priority
substances list at least every four years.
28. In January 2012, the Commission brought forward
a proposal after a review of the existing 33 priority substances
and their environmental quality standards (EQSs) established under
the EQS Directive.
The proposal introduced nine new substances to the list of priority
substances and six new substances to the list of priority hazardous
substances, and changed the status of two priority substances
to priority hazardous substances.
29. The Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) submitted an Explanatory Memorandum
about this proposal which drew attention to the introduction of
the pharmaceuticals EE2 (used in the birth control pill) and diclofenac
(a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to the list of priority
substances. While stating that limited data were available to
assess the scale of the problem across the EU, Defra's Memorandum
also said that the EA had estimated that it could cost about £27
billion over 20 years to install the necessary wastewater treatment
technology in England and Wales to achieve the EQS for EE2. For
Water UK, Ms Sarah Mukherjee said that the water industry was
also worried by this estimate.
30. We discussed this new proposal with the representatives
of the Commission. They explained the process whereby the list
of substances included in the proposal had been selected, providing
scientific verification that the substances were relevant and
that the limit values proposed were appropriate for the protection
of public health and the environment. The Commission said that
the need for substantial investment in additional wastewater treatment
could be reduced if other measures were taken to control the impact
of pharmaceuticals, such as take-back schemes for unused medicines.
The Commission referred to the flexibility allowed to Member States
under the WFD, and said: "While one should refrain from saying
that the only option is the most costly option, this needs a serious
examination of what preventive measures can be taken. This is
the spirit of the Water Framework Directive."
We take the point that "end-of-pipe" measures to deal
with the polluting impact of chemicals in water are likely to
be significantly more expensive than tackling the source of the
chemicals' input. If it is clear that a polluting impact needs
remedying, all options must be identified and considered.
31. We set out our recommendations as regards
the implementation of the Water Framework Directive at the end
of this Chapter, after consideration of the specific experience
in the UK. A central issue is the aspirational nature of the WFD,
and the ambitious targets set for water quality over the period
to 2027. On the one hand, this level of ambition is seen to be
driving water resource management across the EU in a positive
direction; on the other, the classification scheme, based on the
"one out all out" principle, may serve to mask progress
in water quality which secures improvements to some important
criteria, but not all. The current discussion of the priority
substances proposal has thrown this issue into sharp relief.
32. EU water legislation encompasses Directives
which pre-date the WFD. These include the Nitrates Directive;
in February 2012, for example, the Commission announced that it
had referred France to the EU Court of Justice for failing to
take measures to guarantee that water pollution by nitrates was
They also include the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive; the
European Environment Agency has said that considerable progress
has been made in its implementation, but that "full compliance
is yet to be achieved, including the lack of more stringent tertiary
treatment in some sensitive areas and inadequate treatment levels
in wastewater treatment plants in some larger cities".
We return to the issue of older EU water legislation later in
33. Drought conditions have occurred more frequently
in the EU in recent years. The European Environment Agency has
said that, comparing the impacts of droughts in the EU between
1976-90 and 1991-2006, there was a doubling in both area and population
affected in the later period. In 2008, Cyprus suffered a fourth
consecutive year of low rainfall; in the summer, with drought
at a critical level, 30 water tankers sailed in from Greece; households
were supplied with water for around 12 hours only three times
a week. For France,
2011 was the sixth driest year in the last half-century. Across
the whole country, rainfall was down by around 17% against average
levels, with wide regional variations; in South West France, the
shortfall reached 40%.
According to the Met Office, while in 2011 the UK annual rainfall
total was close to average, much of central, eastern and southern
England had a persistent rainfall deficiency. Several Midland
counties had their driest year on record.
In March 2012, the Environment Agency confirmed that South and
East Yorkshire, East Anglia and South East England were in drought;
in April, it said that drought conditions also applied in South
West England and the Midlands.
34. In 2007, the Commission published a Communication
on water scarcity and droughts (see Box 3 in Chapter 3) which
presented an initial set of policy options to increase water efficiency
and water savings.
The Commission has said that a review of EU water scarcity and
drought policy will form part of the Blueprint to be published
in 2012. Feedback from the "fitness check" had shown
that some issues, particularly relating to quantitative water
management, had not been well covered by the WFD. Stakeholders
did not think that this was the right time for new legislation,
even though current projections showed that water scarcity would
increase in Europe.
This is in contrast to flooding, also projected to increase in
Europe, which Member States are required to plan for and manage
the risks of under the Floods Directive 2007/60/EC. We deal more
fully with the relationship between EU water legislation and policy
on water scarcity in the next Chapter.
Implementation in the UK
35. In December 2011, the UK Government published
the Water White Paper, "Water for Life".
In the executive summary, the Government state that "we have
many exquisite stretches of water ... but only 27% of our rivers
and lakes are fully functioning ecosystems. Under EU law we have
a legal imperative to make a substantial improvement to this figure
by 2027. We also have a clear moral imperative, and an economic
one." It is clear that, in deciding on the measures to be
included in the Water Bill that will follow the White Paper, the
Government have the requirements of the Water Framework Directive
in mind, alongside other important concerns bearing on water resource
36. There are important differences between conditions
affecting water management in the UK and conditions in other EU
Member States. Because of the UK's island geography, the issue
of trans-boundary basins is of far less significance than it is
for continental countries. Moreover, as Professor Alan Jenkins,
Deputy Director of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology told us:
"... we have a very big gradient of not just population but
also weather within the UK. For example, the north of Scotland
receives 2.5 metres of rain per year; we in London probably get
0.5 metres, or a little over. That is a pretty big discrepancy.
In theory it can be coped with within the Water Framework Directive,
but, because the Water Framework Directive works on those thresholds,
we suffer perhaps a little more than some other countries in the
interpretation of those thresholds."
37. In his evidence to us, Mr Richard Benyon,
MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at Defra, quoted the
figure of 27% of rivers as fully functioning ecosystems, and added
that there was "a desperate need to improve this situation".
We pressed Mr Benyon and his officials on whether the UK was approaching
implementation of the WFD with sufficient ambition.
38. One of his officials, Deputy Director, Water
Availability and Quality Programme, Defra, said: "... what
is often called our level of ambitionreaching 32% at good
status, by 2015is not really an ambition that we declared
but reflects what we found we expected to achieve when we worked
out what measures should be put in place and would work",
and he stressed that other improvements in the water environment
were being achieved in parallel even if they did not result in
changes to overall status classifications.
39. Both Mr Benyon and his officials made it
clear that 100% of UK waters would not reach good status by 2027,
and that the provisions in the WFD on disproportionate cost and
technical feasibility meant that a lower level than 100% was in
keeping with the Directive. According to his officials, "the
impact assessment we did at the start of the first cycle said,
rather tentatively, that by projecting forward and taking account
of where we thought we could foresee the benefits outweighing
the costs of what might emerge as needing to be done, we would
probably get to something like 75% good status by 2027."
40. Lord Smith of Finsbury, EA Chairman, also
said that, given the population density of the UK and industrial
and agricultural activity, it was unlikely that 100% of its waters
would achieve good ecological status, though the existence of
that ambition was important for the impulse that it gave.
The EA added, in the results reported by the EA in 2010 and 2011,
"roughly, the same number of water bodies met good status,
but underneath that the individual elementsaround 1,400
separate quality elementsimproved in status class. So big
progress is being made but that did not change the headline measure."
41. When we asked representatives of the water
industry about current and planned proportions of waters in this
country with good status under the WFD, their answers focussed
on the classification methodology and the "one out all out"
principle. Severn Trent Water queried the scientific basis for
the measurement of the criteria, and the net environmental benefit
if water quality were to be improved at the cost of greater energy
consumption for treatment plants: "There is a lack of flexibility
in the system and the way it is currently implemented in the UK.
Our problem is not with the Water Framework Directive; our problem
is with the way it is implemented."
Ofwat (the Water Services Regulation Authority) similarly spoke
of the need for EU directives to allow for greater flexibility
to take account of local circumstances, and of a wish to see the
"one out all out" approach disappear.
42. Written evidence from WWF (UK) expressed
a different view. Referring to the RBMPs published by Defra in
December 2009, that evidence stated: "The lack of action
was illustrated by the ambition set out in the plans. These anticipated
that the percentage of water bodies at good status by 2015 would
rise from 27% to just 32% across England and Wales. The plans
envisaged that the vast majority of improvements in water body
status were anticipated as taking place between 2021 and the final
2027 deadline, but provided little to no clarity on how this sudden
achievement of good status would be achieved."
Its representative told us that the long timescales set out under
the WFD had been "open to interpretation", and that
the WWF and other organisations had sought a judicial review of
the 2009 RBMPs "because we felt that those timescales had
43. Professor Alan Jenkins said that the idea
of having a "standardised tool" for comparing water
quality across the EU was "excellent", though he recognised
that issues remained to be resolved about settling the boundaries
between the different status categories. He stressed the probability
that a large proportion of surface waters in high population density
countries are not going to achieve good status: "good status
is a good step along the way, but we need to accept that good
status will not be achieved everywhere. Therefore we need another
44. Some of the evidence from UK witnesses lacked
an awareness of the EU context, in which we have heard no strong
voices calling for change. In our view, any expectations that
changes should be made in the short term to the core elements
of the Water Framework Directive, such as the objectives and timescales,
are unrealistic, and unjustified. It is too soon to assess
overall implementation of the Directive with any degree of certainty,
though it is clear that Member States are finding it challenging
to implement. While there seems to be no realistic prospect that
Member States will secure the Directive's ambition that all rivers
and water bodies should have good or high status by 2027, we agree
with several witnesses that the aspiration to meet the demands
of the Directive has already delivered substantial improvement
in the management of water resources.
45. We urge the Government, and others responsible
for implementing the Directive in the UK, to act fully in the
spirit of the Directive in driving forward improvements to water
quality. Given the complexities of ecological status, this includes
and requires flexibility in implementation, but this is reflected
in provisions of the Directive. However, we are concerned the
WFD may be perceived as too rigid to take climate change sufficiently
into account. We view the "one out all out" basis
for assessing status categories as a blunt and rigid method which
fails to capture effectively the ecological as well as the chemical
quality of water. While we do not call for regulatory change at
this time, we urge the Commission to consider the "one out
all out" rule specifically in its work on the Blueprint.
In the short term, we see an urgent need for reporting on progress
under the Directive to go beyond the "headline measure"
of these categories and to show the progress made in the individual
quality criteria. Member States may already choose to do this,
but we call on the Commission to develop guidance, through
the Common Implementation Strategy, to help in the communication
of the wider extent of improvements being promoted under the WFD
that may not be fully reflected in the assigned status of water
46. We heard evidence, particularly from the
EA, and the Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT), about sampling and
monitoring under the WFD. The WRT thought that the approach being
used was flawed and amounted to continuing the traditional (chemical)
ways of measuring water quality with an "ecological gloss".
The WRT said in its further evidence: "We feel that water
quality objectives at present are only quasi-ecological and are
based mainly on an incomplete network of
point source samples
which will detect chronic point source pollution but not diffuse
acute pollution which is a primary characteristic of agricultural
pollution. We feel that much more use and emphasis should be put
biotic indices for macro-invertebrates."
47. We are very concerned that sampling methods
may differ across the EU.
Should sampling not be consistent, data, knowledge and understanding
will not be comparable. We recommend that the Commission examine
this issue in some detail with a view to ensuring comparability
of monitoring regimes across the EU.
48. We mentioned earlier the February 2012 proposal
on priority substances under the EQS Directive, and the estimate
supplied by Defra that the cost of treatment technology to tackle
certain pharmaceutical substances in wastewater could be around
£27 billion. Mr Benyon also referred to the significant further
investment that might be needed, and of the possibility that the
use of exemptions under the WFD might undermine the overall objectives
of the legislation.
We see a need for the Government, and the Commission, potentially
through its European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Water, to
acquire more knowledge of the risk posed, principally by the pharmaceutical
substances being added to the list, and of cost-effective methods
of reducing this risk before effluent containing the substances
requires wastewater treatment. These considerations must include
the pharmaceutical manufacturers, not least because the "polluter
means that they may be called on to contribute to mitigating the
49. Part of the background to the judicial review
which the WWF and others launched in 2009 was a concern that a
change was needed from the top-down process adopted for the first
round of UK RBMPs, a shift away from what it called "a black-box,
scientific-type exercise" and towards "putting community
at the heart of river-based planning".
In 2011, the Government initiated trials of a catchment-based
approach (see Chapter 4) to embody this shift. Mr Benyon spoke
of this initiative, saying that "we really want the Commission
to understand that this is an effective way forward."
50. We doubt that the Commission needs instruction
in the benefits of community involvement, since public participation
was always a key element of the WFD. We question, rather, whether
those organisations responsible for implementation of the WFD
in this countrythe water companies, Ofwat, the EA and Defra
itselfhave the ability to "change their spots",
and to subordinate ingrained habits of "top-down" activity
to the need to encourage "bottom-up" input to water
resource management. The WRT gave us its view that "the regulator
is distracted from their core duty by doing a kind of outreach
role". The EA
argued that the Agency had changed its approach since the legal
challenge, and that it had the skills and the commitment to work
collaboratively at local level.
Mr Benyon made clear his belief that the Agency was the right
organisation for the job: "[it] is well led; it has a clear
view of what the Government are trying to achieve and, despite
the constraints of the spending round, it has produced a clear
way forward on freshwater issues".
51. We take the view, however, that the roles
of the various agencies in the UK have become confused and require
clarification. We expect the Government, the Environment Agency,
Ofwat and local government to act quickly on lessons learnt from
the catchment management trials. We see it as incumbent upon the
Government quickly to develop a more strategic approach to water
resource management, with a particular view to overcoming reluctance
by water companies to make capital investment. We welcome
the indications in the Water White Paper that this is the chosen
direction of travel for the Government. We note the EA's new
additional role in this as the Government's body in England for
advice on climate adaptation to organisations in key sectors on
the actions needed to build resilience to the changes and impacts
52. We detected no great enthusiasm on the part
of the Government for learning from experience elsewhere in the
EU. We look to the Government, and to the Commission, to ensure
that Member States take as much away from Common Implementation
Strategy (CIS) discussions as they bring to them. At the same
time, we fear that the CIS may be dominated by representatives
of national agencies, to the exclusion of other partnersparticularly
the scientific community and the practitioners at local levels
who are involved in day-to-day experience of managing the issuesin
the implementation process. We urge the Commission to do more
to assist with implementation and enforcement, including the sharing
of best practice at all levels of governance and implementation,
and to enhance the CIS discussions with non-Governmental input.
53. Most witnesses emphasised their preference
for the flexible, integrated approach of the Water Framework Directive
compared to the rigid approach of other pieces of EU water legislation.
The Minister was critical of the costs of implementing the Urban
Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) and the Nitrates Directive.
Some other witnesses were supportive of the UWWTD: Professor Jenkins
said that it had been "hugely successful" in reducing
phosphorus concentration in lowland waters;
and the WWF attributed improvements in point-source pollution
to measures taken under the UWWTD.
However, little support was voiced for the Nitrates Directive,
though there was acknowledgement that addressing diffuse pollution
caused by agricultural nutrient losses has led to positive initiatives
such as Defra's Catchment Sensitive Farming programme. We received
no conclusive evidence to support the early withdrawal of other
elements of existing EU water legislation, but expect the Commission
to pay particular attention to consideration of whether these
pieces of legislation are still fit for purpose. We see the case
in the longer term for the integrated approach of the Water Framework
Directive increasingly to supplant more narrowly focussed legislation.
5 Q 258 Back
Q 262 Back
Q 205 Back
Q 121 Back
Q 124 Back
Q 260 Back
Q 222 Back
Q 205 Back
Q 132 Back
QQ 24-28 Back
EA supplementary written evidence Back
Q 217 Back
Q 221 Back
Q 126 Back
Q 141 Back
Q 132 Back
EA supplementary written evidence Back
EA further supplementary written evidence Back
Q 257 Back
Q 34 Back
Q 272 Back
See p. 10 of "The European Environment-State and Outlook
2010: Freshwater Quality":
"The European Environment: State and Outlook 2010: Water
Resources and Flows" Back
See: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/2011/annual.html Back
COM(2007)414: see Chapter 3 of this report. Back
Q 258 Back
Q 271 Back
CM 8230 Back
Q 60 Back
Q 281 Back
Q 289: the figure of 32% relates to England and Wales. Back
Q 286 Back
Q 237 Back
Q 26 Back
Q 167 Back
WWF, para 12 Back
Q 219 Back
QQ 81, 83 Back
Q 237 Back
See the EA's comment on the uncertain chemical status of some
water bodies in France, at paragraph 25. Back
Q 299 Back
The polluter pays principle (which is incorporated into the Water
Framework Directive) is intended to reflect the value of natural
resources within public and private decision making and to bring
private incentives in line with society's interest, for example,
through taxes on polluting activities. Back
Q 219 Back
Q 290 Back
Q 191 Back
Q 249 Back
Q 296 Back
Q 299 Back
Q 67 Back
Q 224 Back