Water quality

Inquiry status: Report published, Government response published

Under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), discharges of substances deemed to “present a significant risk to or via the aquatic environment” must be progressively reduced to a safe level. 33 such chemicals are currently listed for control. A further short list has recently been proposed by the European Commission, and the European Parliament is currently considering these proposals.
Some of the chemicals put forward for control are controversial due to their widespread use in pharmaceutical products and the large expense associated with their removal from waste water. The Environment Agency has estimated that installing the necessary advanced waste water treatment plant in England and Wales to deal with some of the pharmaceuticals being classified as new priority substances could cost about £27 billion over 20 years.

The Committee held an inquiry into water quality.



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    • Reports and associated evidence – Reports of Committee inquires. This category may also include Special Reports where they are used by a Committee to bring matters relating to conduct of its business to the notice of the House.
    • Responses to Reports - Responses may be published as a Special Report, or as a Command Paper. They may also be appended to a Report should the Committee have substantial comments on the Response, in which case they can be found listed under Reports. 
    • Other oral and written evidence - Evidence taken by the Committee that has yet to or did not result in the publication of a Report. This includes transcripts of recent meetings.
    • Estimate Memoranda - An Estimate memorandum is an explanatory note that accompanies a government department’s estimate (a means by which a department seeks authority from Parliament for its spending plans).
    • Correspondence - Correspondence sent from or received by the Committee or its Chair.