A series of guiding principles are used in the UK to ensure a consistent approach to the assessment and management of water resources. These are:
„h To secure the proper use of water resources for all purposes, including environmental need.
„h To protect the environment by:
- identifying a minimum flow or groundwater level below which abstraction may be curtailed or flows augmented;
- protecting flow and water-level variability across the full range of seasonal regimes from low to high water flow/level conditions;
- protecting the critical aspects of the water environment including, where relevant, habitats that are dependent upon river flows or water levels;
- recognising that some watercourses or wetlands are more sensitive than others to the impact of flow or level changes.
„h To ensure no reduction in existing protected rights.
„h To protect the interests of other legitimate river users.
„h To take account of existing and future local requirements that are currently not considered. These could be protecting or changing flows from rivers into
estuaries in order to provide protection for the estuarine environment.
„h To take account of water quality considerations throughout the catchment in both surface waters and groundwater.
Groundwater quality is difficult to manage. Land use in the United Kingdom is intensive, with many potential sources of pollution. Also, the hydrogeology
is highly variable. The approach to groundwater quality protection reflects the requirements of prevailing EU legislation, such as the Groundwater, Nitrates
and Plants Protection Products Directives. Wherever possible, risk-based methods are used to control releases of pollutants. A combination of legislative
controls and influencing measures has been and will be necessary to achieve the objective of protecting groundwater resources.
The Groundwater Directive (80/68/EEC) requires Member States to:
„h prevent the entry of List I substances (the most hazardous) to groundwater;
„h limit the pollution of groundwater by List II substances.
Various pieces of domestic legislation implement these EU requirements. The regulators operate a system of permits for intentional discharges and disposals,
and control other potentially polluting activities by measures such as Notices and Codes of Good Practice.
Nitrate is not a listed substance under the Groundwater Directive. However, the Nitrates Directive controls nitrate pollution from agricultural sources.
In the United Kingdom Nitrate Vulnerable Zones have been identified where action plans are used to control nitrate releases.
The Biocides and Plant Protection Products Directives restrict the marketing and use of substances such as pesticides and herbicides. As existing and new
products are reviewed for their pollution risks, this is becoming an increasingly effective way of protecting groundwater.
The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) (EC 2000) came into force in December 2000. The Directive will change the way water is protected and managed.
It establishes a new, integrated approach to the protection, improvement and sustainable use of Europe¡¦s rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater.
The Directive emphasises the need for sustainable development, and encourages the development of sustainable solutions to water management through the
active involvement of everyone involved in both technical interpretation and implementation.
The Directive will be implemented in phases, leading up to the publication of the first River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) in December 2009. The Directive
introduces two key changes to the way the water environment must be managed.
Firstly, it aims to:
„h protect the water environment and water users from the effects of pollution from dangerous substances;
„h introduce new, broader ecological objectives.