How will the Water Framework Directive affect you?

The impending Water Framework Directive will affect a diverse range of businesses. But time is running out to air your views. Elaine Coles reports

The upcoming Water Framework Directive (WFD) will have a major impact on a wide variety of stakeholders. The latest stage in its implementation invites them to
comment on draft River Basin Planning Guidance for the Environment Agency on the practical implementation of the WFD under the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003. The timetable sets a deadline of 7 March, for final responses to the consultation, which was launched by Defra on 13 December last year.

Breadth of sectors
With the consultation process on river planning guidance now firmly under way, UK business and industry will finally start getting to grips with the wider ramifications of the directive. A look at the list of 113 consultee organisations approached by Defra gives some idea of the breadth of sectors the WFD will impact upon.

The housing and construction sector, for example, will undoubtedly be significantly affected. The directive's requirement that significant and upward trends in the
concentration of pollutants in groundwater are reversed is likely to be a key driver for changes to land use and for remediation of contaminated sites, particularly in areas where there are a large number of pollution sources. Major construction projects such as roads, railways, pipelines and cables may pose a greater risk to the water environment than static sites. They have a dynamic corridor of activity, greater variety of ground conditions, restricted land take and come under the jurisdiction of differing regulatory authorities. Similarly, the massive new developments planned for the Southeast where the construction of a housing estate on a flood plain may create exacerbated flooding problems downstream - developers may well find themselves the target of significant on-costs to rectify the situation.

Crucial to an understanding of the wider implications of the directive for business and industry is an appreciation of the fact that, although it is concerned with water, its scope is not restricted to what happens on, in or even near water. A spill of polluting material, such as oil, quite remote from a river, could find its way there with devastating consequences. For that reason, the scope of the WFD is not restricted to rivers, lakes or coastal waters - rather it requires consideration of any human intervention that could affect the quality of water, wherever that takes place.

In this respect, the intention of the directive to place even tighter restrictions on priority and priority hazardous substances from entering water bodies is also likely to have significant financial and operational implications for the manufacturing industry.

The consultation gives business and industry a real opportunity to play an active role in the decision-making process on legislation which is likely to affect them significantly in both economic and operational terms, albeit as yet unquantified. But they will have to move fast. Defra is working to a tight timetable and the task of synthesising the views of such a disparate range of organisations, some of whom may have diametrically opposed interests, will be formidable.

Little time
The guidance points out the timetable allows little time for considering responses to existing or upcoming consultations. The Environment Agency is already considering publishing and consulting on the summaries of significant water management matters six months earlier than the proposed dates.

Many organisations, including the CBI, have already started to look at the likely business impact of the directive, which will also be under the microscope at this year's ET2006 (www.et-expo.co.uk), the environmental technology and management services exhibition.
Visitors to the show, which takes place from 16 to 18 May at the NEC in Birmingham, will be able to attend a range of free seminars and briefings.
For more about ET2006 contact Christina Petrides on 020 8651 7151 or email christina.petrides@fav-house.com

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