Last reviewed 4 October 2021

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has launched a consultation on proposed amendments to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 as applied to groundwater activities and related surface water discharge activities.

The proposals aim to address three policy objectives.

  1. To provide an improved hierarchy of regulatory controls for groundwater activities.

  2. To provide controls for a greater range of potential pollutants.

  3. To improve existing control measures for protecting groundwater from site-based activities.

The consultation proposes increasing the range of permitting controls available to the Environment Agency for activities that affect groundwater. These can currently be permitted only by the highest-tier permits, which are often disproportionate to the different levels of risk certain activities represent. A wider range of permits will remove unnecessary costs for businesses while still ensuring strong protections are in place for our water environment.

The new permits will also cover activities with the potential to introduce heat pollution or microbial pollution to groundwater, bringing them in line with the controls already in place for surface, bathing and drinking water.

The consultation document is available at online and comments should be submitted to Defra by 22 December 2021.

Meanwhile, the Government has also unveiled proposals to improve water quality and regulate activities that affect the UK’s water supplies.