Water and the Water Environment: a summary of UK legislation and agreements

December 2003

This review summarises environmental legislation and agreements that apply within the UK and are concerned with water resources and the water environment. The extent of the relevant legislation is large and made complex by the interactions of European Union Law and UK Law. Further complexity is created by much legislation being adopted at devolved government level for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Fortunately, at the European Commission level, it has been recognised that much of the water policy legislation developed between the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s represented a piecemeal approach, which sometimes created conflicting methods and definitions. The intended solution to this complexity is the Water Framework Directive (WFD) - a major initiative that is addressed by the final section of this review.

The early sections of this review explain how UK environmental law and agreements are developed, and who is responsible for their application as far as water resources and the water environment are concerned. There is also a description of information sources, which can be used to obtain more detail and news on the latest developments. Subsequent sections address legislation under the following categories.

These categories are further divided into primary legislation (Acts of Parliament), European legislation (such as EC Directives), and international agreements where appropriate. A brief summary of the purpose and scope of the legislation in each category is provided. Interaction and relationship with other legislation is also described. The numbers of related statutory instruments and regulations can be very large, especially when drafted separately for devolved governments. Consequently, the description of this secondary legislation is limited to summary detail sufficient to allow convenient referencing. European legislation is provided with an individual reference description (listed under 'References' at the end of the review) whereas details of all primary and secondary legislation can be obtained from the HMSO WebPages at www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts.htm using the legislation title and date.

Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, price £15.00, less 20% to FWR members.

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