UK: Water E-News, December 2011

Last Updated: 12 December 2011
Article by Lee Tearle and Paul Thompson


Key items to note include:

  • Water White Paper
  • Publication by EA and Ofwat of report on abstraction licensing changes
  • Draft Water Supply Threshold Regulations laid
  • Tackling Summer Drought begins now
  • Anglian Water granted drought permit; South East Water applies for a drought order whilst Thames Water switches on its drought busting acquifers
  • Veolia to sell off its UK water undertakings
  • Ofwat consults on price limit frameworks and charging for new connections
  • A single Environment Body for Wales


We have delayed our December newsletter in the hope that the long awaited White Paper would indeed come out and now it has. At first glance, no great surprises but some clarification as to the Government's intended stance at last!

Investors will be encouraged by the decision to abandon structural reform and the timetable for the more piecemeal evolutionary approach should give everyone a proper opportunity to evaluate its impact and the new opportunities it is intended to provide. Assuming however that lessons have been learnt from the failure of the WSL regime in its current form, the new model plus an updated and extended inset regime could well stimulate real interest and bring in many new players. Companies will need to follow the changes in the future Water Bill very carefully therefore to be fully prepared to respond to them.

Investors will also be encouraged by the proposed new two-tier referral system for mergers which should at long last give some relief from the automatic Competition Commission inquiry system that has restricted consolidation in the industry for so long.

Finally, much on abstraction reform - as expected and quite long term with a speed up on existing commitments for dealing with the accumulating debt pile, plus a promise of new ideas. Together with the White Paper, the joint Environment Agency and Ofwat paper published the day before will repay careful scrutiny.

So overall, a conservative approach for a conservative industry.

We will report on reactions to the White Paper and developments on it more generally in early January. Have a great Christmas.


A single Environment body for Wales

Wales is to benefit from one single environment body that will ensure the most sustainable and effective management of its natural resources. This was the message from Environment Minister, John Griffiths who has agreed to the Environment Agency Wales (EAW), the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and Forestry Commission Wales (FCW) being brought together into one organisation from 1st April 2013.

Environment Agency moves to manage scarce water supplies across eastern England

The Environment Agency has said that dry weather conditions and low water levels remain a concern across England and drought continues to affect many regions moving into winter. The Environment Agency is also pressing water companies in affected regions to step up their campaigns to encourage their customers to use less water. Companies that apply to use for drought permits must show that they are doing everything possible to reduce water demand including implemented water saving campaigns and reducing leakage.

Tackling a summer drought begins now

Water companies and the public need to plan now for a summer drought to minimise the impacts of a potentially dry winter, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman announced on 1 December.

Anglian Water granted drought permit; South East Water applies for a drought order whilst Thames Water switches on its drought busting acquifers

Anglian Water has been granted a drought permit after the driest spring in East Anglia for 80 years. The Environment Agency has confirmed that the firm could extract extra water from the River Nene, in Northamptonshire, to replenish the half full Pitsford Reservoir.

Meanwhile - South East Water has applied for a drought order to help refill a reservoir supplying more than 65,000 homes across East and West Sussex. The levels of usable water at Ardingly Reservoir are at 12% after the drought affecting parts of England since June.

Finally, Thames Water has urged its 8.8m customers to use water wisely as it boosted supplies by 'switching on' a back-up network of underground aquifer storage for the first time since the 2006 drought

Drought Prospects Report

The Environment Agency has published its drought prospects report which gives an early indication of the prospects for water resources through winter 2011 into spring 2012. The report describes potential rainfall scenarios and recommends actions for the Environment Agency, farmers, water companies and other abstractors. It confirms that the Environment Agency will continue to work with all of its partners to minimise the impact of drought on people, farming, businesses and the environment.

Cambridge Water consults on drought plan

Cambridge Water published its drought plan on 2 December, which is open for consultation until 3 February 2012.

Veolia to sell UK water companies

Veolia, the French utility giant, plans to sell €5bn (£4.3bn) of assets, including its three UK-regulated water companies. The company's UK water operations – Veolia Water Central, Southeast and East – together serve more than 3m people. Veolia has owned them since 1987 but they remained known, until 2009, as Three Valleys Water, Tendring Hundred and Folkestone & Dover. The companies have a combined turnover of £269m. At the time of writing, this announcement whilst widely reported in the press does not appear to feature on Veolia water company websites.

Fisheries Minister meets EU Commissioner

to resolve "days at sea" cuts On 5 December Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, joined Richard Lochhead and Michelle O'Neill to meet EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, ahead of crucial annual fisheries negotiations. Discussions will continue at the Fisheries Council on 15 and 16 December.

Fishermen trial technology to protect marine habitats

Trials show that new technology is allowing South West fishermen to continue to fish in their local area while protecting the marine habitats in Lyme Bay. The news was revealed by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon who visited a group of fishermen in West Bay, Dorset.

Chairs appointed for Canal and River Trust Waterway Partnerships

The Canal & River Trust, the new waterways charity that will become the guardian of the canals and rivers in England and Wales in April next year, has appointed chairs to a number of the Waterway Partnerships that will play a role in the management of canals and rivers across the network.

Majority of England's bathing waters meet strict quality standards

A huge majority of England's bathing waters continue to meet rigorous quality standards, new figures from Defra reveal. Nearly 80 per cent of England's bathing waters met the tightest guideline standard with close to 98 per cent meeting the European Commission's minimum water quality threshold in 2011.

Survey reveals people would save pets over gadgets in a flood

And finally, the results of a survey carried out by the Environment Agency confirms that we are a nation of pet lovers and that people would rescue their pets ahead of expensive gadgets or sentimental photos from their home before it flooded.


EA and Ofwat set out case for abstraction licensing changes

Immediately ahead of the White Paper, the Environment Agency and Ofwat published on 7 December a report – "The case for change: reforming water abstraction in England" – which sets out their evidence for the need to reform water abstraction management. Acting together now, they say, "will ensure enough good quality water for a healthier water environment and secure supplies of water for people, businesses and agriculture in the longer term. We look forward to continuing to work with the UK Government to make the commitments in the Water White Paper a reality".

Draft Water Supply (Amendment to the Threshold Requirement) Regulations

These Regulations amend section 17D(2) of the Water Industry Act 1991 so as to reduce the threshold level for water supply to specified premises from 50 megalitres to 5 megalitres. The threshold is the minimum quantity of water estimated to be supplied annually to any premises by a licensed water supplier. A licensed water supplier may not enter into an undertaking with a new customer to supply water to their premises unless the threshold requirement is satisfied. They are subject to affirmative resolution in each House of Parliament (see report on statutory instruments below).

Reappointment to the Natural England Board

Catherine Graham-Harrison OBE and Andrew Wilson have been reappointed to the Board of Natural England, the body responsible for enhancing and managing the natural environment, by Richard Benyon, Natural Environment and Marine Minister. They are reappointed for a further period of three years from 1 January 2012.

Environment Agency appoints new Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management

David Rooke, who has over 30 years experience in flood and coastal risk management, has been announced as the Environment Agency's new Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management

Ofwat consults on price limit frameworks

Ofwat, has started a consultation on how it will set price limits in future. The proposals will ensure customers continue to get a fair deal, and that well run, efficient companies can continue to raise finance to improve service to customers. New price limits will be set in 2014.The consultation not only sets out a framework for setting price limits, but also describes how the regulatory approach will develop so the sector can continue to deliver for customers in decades to come. The consultation ends on 15 February 2012.

Ofwat consults on charging for new connections

Ofwat is consulting on its policy principles for charges for new connections in order to provide greater clarity to stakeholders about the provision of new infrastructure. Having reviewed its existing guidance Ofwat has decided to withdraw its previous guidance. When it publishes its final policy principles for charges for new connections, this will explain how it will make decisions in this area. The consultation ends on 6 February 2012.

Ofwat – changes to COPI

Ofwat has published an information notice regarding changes to the Construction Output Price Index.

Ofwat – Charging principles and guidance

Ofwat has published principles and guidance for water and sewerage service charges.

SSE Water applies to Ofwat for a variation to its appointment

SSE Water has published a notice under section (8)(2)(b) of the Water Industry Act 1991 stating that it has applied for a variation to its appointment to be the water and sewerage services provider at a site in Dorchester, called Brewery Square.


Water For Life

Published by Defra at last, on Thursday 8 December, Water for Life, the Water White Paper describes, as Defra puts it, a vision for future water management in which the water sector is resilient, in which water companies are more efficient and customer focused, and in which water is valued as the precious and finite resource it is. See Viewpoint for further comment on this above.

The key reforms are highlighted by Defra as follows:

  • Over the long-term we will introduce a reformed water abstraction regime, as signalled in the Natural Environment White Paper earlier this year;
  • We set out changes we can make now to deal with the legacy of overabstraction of our rivers;
  • We re-affirm our new catchment approach to dealing with water quality and wider environmental issues;
  • We will remove barriers to the greater trading of abstraction licences and bulk supplies of water to make our supply system more flexible;
  • With the Environment Agency and Ofwat we will provide clearer guidance to water companies on planning for the long-term, and keeping demand down;
  • We will consult on the introduction of national standards and a new planning approval system for sustainable drainage;
  • We will make payments to address the historical unfairness of high bills in the South West; and
  • We will encourage water companies to introduce social tariffs to support vulnerable customers.

So far as delivery is concerned, Defra says that there are immediate steps for Government to take in implementing this White Paper, particularly:

  • We will publish a draft Water Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in early 2012 and introduce a Water Bill as soon as Parliamentary time allows;
  • We will produce a new strategic policy statement and social and environmental guidance for Ofwat during 2012;
  • With the Environment Agency, we will support catchment pilots across the country, with particular focus on 25 which will be evaluated in early 2013;
  • We will put in place new arrangements to work with stakeholders on design of a new abstraction regime in early 2012;
  • We will intensify our efforts to deal with the legacy of unsustainable abstraction, publishing information on progress on the Restoring Sustainable Abstraction programme in 2012;
  • We will publish final social tariff guidance in early 2012; and
  • We will produce a draft guideline for the next water resources management planning round during 2012.

Written Ministerial Statement on Marine Conservation Zones

In a written Ministerial Statement by Richard Benyon on 15 November the Government has confirmed it's commitment to the Marine and Coastal Act and to ensure that it has an adequate evidence base to underpin decisions, Defra will be commissioning significant additional work to support the designation of Marine Conservation Zones

Ministerial Statement on the Carbon Plan

The Government published on 1 December its Carbon Plan, setting out the Government's long-term plans to meet its carbon targets, including the fourth carbon budget set earlier this year. The plan shows how doing so will set the country on plausible pathway to its 2050 target to reduce emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels. The plan will help drive new high-value economic sectors and save billions through energy efficiency.

Draft Ports NPS debate in Commons

A short 45 minute debate on the NPS took place on 29 November introduced by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker). The NPS should have been designated on the 30 November, however, the debate had to be adjourned until a later date; a date has not been announced yet. Therefore, the NPS may or may not be designated this year.

Launch of National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Strategy

The Environment and Sustainable Development Minister, John Griffiths has launched Wales' first National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management.

Transition to the Planning Act as amended by the Localism Act 2011

On 15 November 2011 the Localism Act 2011 received Royal Assent. The Government has confirmed that it will issue a directions to provide a clearer outline of its plans to ensure that major infrastructure cases transfer seamlessly from the Infrastructure Planning Commission to the Planning Inspectorate. The direction is presently being drafted, and will be published in draft form well in advance of the abolition of the Commission to provide all parties with an interest with certainty as to how transition will be handled.


Guidance on who is the 'competent authority' under the Habitats Directive/Regulations where there is more than one authority

R (Cornwall Waste Forum, St Dennis Branch) v Secretary of state for Communities and Local Government and SITA Cornwall Ltd and Environment Agency and Cornwall Council [2011] EWHC 2761 (Admin)

The challenge concerned the failure to undertake an appropriate assessment under regulation 61 of the Habitats Regulations by a competent authority. The case is interesting because there was more than one 'competent authority' and the judgment of Mr Justice Collins provides guidance on the process to be followed in this situation, particularly in the case of overlapping responsibilities and the interaction of the planning and pollution control regimes.

To view the remainder of this article please click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.