Revised French water plan finally submitted

A revenue boost for regional water agencies and the creation of a national water agency to coordinate policy implementation are highlights of a draft French water law, presented to cabinet on Wednesday by environment minister Serge Lepeltier.

The legislation has been in gestation since 1999. In 2002 the incoming centre-right government quashed previous proposals that had included a controversial nitrate tax on farmers who are responsible for most nitrate water pollution due to fertilisers and livestock.

It aims to improve water quality to a "good ecological state" by 2015, as required by the 2000 EU water framework directive. Currently half of French water resources are polluted with nitrates and vulnerable to entrophication while pesticides contaminate 75% of waterways and half of underground water resources, according to the government's own figures.

Mr Lepeltier said the law would boost revenues of the regional water agencies, which manage pollution by catchment areas, and extend their responsibilities on water quality management while bringing them under national control for the first time through a newly created national water office.

The law redirects an existing wholesale tax on fertiliser manufacturers, which raises ¬40m euros per year, from the national budget to the regional water agencies. The tax will also be levied on farmers rather than fertiliser makers.

Overall, the agricultural sector will contribute ¬60m, or 4% of the regional water agencies' costs, up from 1% currently. Industry's contribution will remain level at 14%. The share contributed by households will fall from 86% to 82%, drawing complaints from the French consumers union that the legislation would leave consumers still subsidising water use and pollution by farmers.

Republished with permission of Environment Daily


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