Defra consults on boosting regulator powers in water management revamp

Defra has published a wide-ranging consultation on improving the long-term planning of water resources and drainage, and giving regulators more powers.

The paper, Improving our management of water in the environment, sets out proposals including to:

• modernise the process for modifying water company licence conditions to bring them in line with other utilities and to strengthen Ofwat’s ability to improve the way water companies operate;

• reform elements of abstraction licensing to link it more tightly to government objectives for the water environment. “In particular, we propose to clarify the conditions under which the Environment Agency can amend licences to secure good ecological status for water bodies”;

• improve water resources planning to facilitate collaborative regional planning and consider all sectors of water users;

•introduce statutory drainage and wastewater planning to fully assess wastewater network capacity and to develop collaborative solutions with local authorities, who are responsible for parts of the drainage system; and

• amend existing legislation to enable a new charging methodology for Internal Drainage Boards and to enable government, where there is local support, to create new Internal Drainage Boards or expand existing boards.

Defra added: “We are also taking the opportunity to begin discussions around enabling new local funding to be raised to tackle flooding and coastal erosion.”

The consultation runs until 12 March.