Report No FR0243



April 1992



To produce guidelines for the application of the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) approach to wastewater planning on a catchment wide scale.


In recent years the UK Water Industry has funded the development of tools and procedures for an integrated approach to wastewater disposal based on Environmental Quality Objectives and Standards (EQO/EQSs). The approach has come under threat in recent years as a result of European legislation and the activities of environmental pressure groups. To meet this challenge, current planning procedures need to be complemented by a more wide ranging environmental impact assessment. A possible framework for such a planning procedure was seen to be the BPEO approach.


  1. It is feasible to use the BPEO methodology for the strategic planning of wastewater disposal at a catchment-wide level. This has been demonstrated by a detailed case study, from which guidelines have been developed.
  2. There are a number of benefits associated with using this approach:
  1. There are also potential difficulties with the BPEO approach but these are common to any method for strategic planning.
  2. Implementation of the approach is likely to be hindered because there is no current requirement for utilities to adopt what is identified as the BPEO in preference to the lowest cost option, if these are different.
  3. Although not examined in detail in this report, the BPEO approach is likely to be particularly helpful in studies aimed at setting appropriate environmental objectives (e.g. Statutory Water Quality Objectives) and control strategies (e.g. reductions in emissions). The wide-ranging nature of the approach should help to identify the net environmental benefits and costs associated with different standards.


  1. The water utilities and regulatory authorities should consider whether the BPEO approach, as described here, should be promoted as a model for more widespread use for strategic planning of wastewater disposal.
  2. The regulatory authorities, and in particular the NRA, should consider whether the BPEO approach could be used effectively in helping to set Statutory Water Quality Objectives.
  3. Further research should be commissioned into ways of assessing the relative economic benefits/disbenefits of different environmental impacts. This is seen to be of prime importance. The current inability to provide any objective quantification of the value of environmental improvements can result in excessive expenditure for, possibly, little environmental benefit.


After introducing (Section 1) the background and scope of the study, the report goes on the describe what is meant by BPEO (Section 2) and to set down guidelines (Section 3) for its application to wastewater planning at a strategic level. This is the core of the report and is heavily based on, and illustrated by, a worked example (Appendix A). The final main section of the report (Section 4) considers how the BPEO approach could be integrated within the current regulatory framework. Such integration is seen as essential for the effective application of this approach.

Copies of the report are available from FWR, price 35.00, less 20% to FWR Members.