Longer WFD targets will 'close financial gap'
Pushing back a target date for achieving water quality standards in the UK would drastically cut the gap between the financial benefits and costs.
However, achieving the same result by 2027 would cost an average of just £900m a year and bring estimated benefits of an equal value.
Under the requirements of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), member states have to achieve good status in the water bodies covered by the directive by 2015.
However, it is possible for member states to extend targets to a final date of 2027.
Speaking to members of CIWEM (The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management), Rory Wallace, from Defra's WFD implementation team, said it also still unclear where funding will come from to achieve the directive's aims.
"There's certainly not a £1bn cheque coming from the Treasury," he said. "We need to find various opportunities for funding from different sectors for this."
Mr Wallace also defended Defra against accusations from conference delegates that it was not properly involving the public in consultation on the various parts of the WFD.
"Stakeholder engagement is quite a key part of the directive," he said.
Martin Booth, the Environment Agency's WFD programme executive, added: "It's not just the Environment Agency but it's also the Government that want to see a proper consultation and we will judge our success on this by how many people take part."
The next stage of consultation will be on the draft River Basin Management Plans, which are currently under development. This is expected to begin in December and last six months.
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