Alex Cunningham – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Alex Cunningham on 2016-04-08.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 17 March 2016 to Question 31014, what steps her Department is taking to (a) improve water quality and (b) ensure that all water bodies achieve good status as soon as possible.

Rory Stewart

The Department has not been issued with any fines relating to any aspect of its implementation of the Water Framework Directive.

The exemptions referred to in my reply to PQ 31014 are:

  • Article 4(4) provides for extensions of the deadline to 2021 or 2027 for reasons of disproportionate cost or technical feasibility;

  • Article 4(5) provides for setting of less stringent objectives where it would be disproportionately expensive or technically infeasible to achieve good status due to natural conditions or the effects of essential human activity;

  • Article 4(6) allows for temporary deterioration due to natural causes such as extreme floods or prolonged drought; and

  • Article 4(7) allows for deterioration from high status to good status and failure to achieve good status to allow for new sustainable development activities.

The application of each of the exemptions is subject to conditions set out in the above provision.

River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) provide the framework for protecting and improving the water environment. Updated plans covering the period 2016 to 2021 were published by the Environment Agency (EA) on 18 February.

The Plans for England confirm over £3 billion investment in the water environment by 2021, leading to improvements in at least 680 water bodies by 2021, including an overall target to enhance at least 8,000km of fresh waters by 2021. The EA is currently working with Defra to profile the delivery of this target over the six years that the RBMP covers, and is also working with partners to explore opportunities to deliver more.

The EA coordinates action by water companies, farmers, local groups, businesses and councils to achieve the targets set out in the Plans. These actions include reducing pollution from sewage treatment works, managing water abstraction, opening up rivers to salmon and other fish species, and improving the physical habitat.