Groundwater Protection

Key Legislation:

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Supporting Legislation:
Guidance Notes: Advisory Groups for implementation of both the Groundwater Directives and the Water Framework Directive exist within the UK:

The Environment Agency (EA) has statutory responsibility to protect groundwater resources in England and Wales. Groundwater Protection: Policy and Practice (GP3) provides a framework to allow the EA to achieve this. The Policy works alongside defined Groundwater Source Protection Zones, in order to identify and protect sensitive groundwater resource. The licensing regime in England and Wales has most recently been updated by the Environmental Permitting Guidance: Core Guidance for the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.

In Scotland the responsibility to protect the groundwater resource lies with SEPA. SEPA (2009): Groundwater Protection Policy for Scotland v3: Nov 2009 Env Pol No 19 (PDF document) provides the framework for SEPA to achieve this. Other guidance applicable within Scotland includes:

Consent Needed: Consents for storage and handling of chemicals, including hydrocarbons, will be required under the PPC Regime or under the Waste Management Licensing Regime. Conditions specifically relating to protection of groundwater may be set. The CAR Regulations require discharges of industrial and commercial effluents to be authorised by SEPA (Scotland).The CAR Regulations also require all surface water discharges from developments constructed after 1 April 2006 to be drained to Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). Building Control Authorisation will also be required for construction of soakaway for sewage discharges.In England, consent may be required under Part H of the Building Regulations 2010 for discharges to groundwater through the construction of soakaway systems.
How to Apply: Further details are available via the links above.
Who to Apply to: Further details are available via the links above.
When to Apply: Further details are available via the links above.
Various – see individual legislative requirements.
Inspections and Monitoring: EA and SEPA regulated activities will be subject to appropriate inspections and monitoring, the requirements of which are driven by the legislation under which the activity is regulated. Guidance on How to comply with your environmental permitting requirements (PDF document) has been published by the EA.
What to Report: Various – see individual legislative requirements.
Who to Report to: Various – see individual legislative requirements.
When to Report: Various – see individual legislative requirements.
Environment Agency: Civil Sanctions: On 4 January 2011 the Environment Agency will begin using new civil sanctions to take action that is proportionate to the offence and the offender, and reflect the fact that most offences committed by businesses are unintentional.
What to do if in Breach of Consent: Contact EA/SEPA in the first instance.SEPA, as Scotland’s primary environmental regulator, has a duty to ensure compliance with the various sets of legislation for which it has responsibility. Enforcement may take the form of:

  • Discussion and promotion of good practice
  • Formal advisory letters
  • Final warning letters
  • Final enforcement/prohibition notices
  • Enforcing compliance with environmental licences and permits
  • Seeking prosecution for breaches of environmental legislation through the Procurator Fiscal (Scotland)

Further details on SEPA’s Policy on Enforcement are available on the SEPA website.

Guidance on EA’s approach to enforcement is also available on the EA website.

Renewal and Variation: Renewal and variation of licences and permits in relation to discharges to groundwater should be sought through EA/SEPA in the first instance.
Pending Legislation: Under the terms of the WFD (2000), the Groundwater Directive will be repealed in 2013. Groundwater Daughter Directive 2006/118/EC will replace Lists I and II of the GWD and instead apply to all pollutants categorising them as hazardous or non-hazardous substances.
Water Framework Directive: COM(2011)876 is proposed to amend the Water Framework Directive and the Directive on Environmental Quality Standards (Directive 2008/105/EC (PDF document)). It will include, amongst other things, a revised list of priority substances, adding 15 to the directive, 6 of which will be designated as priority hazardous substances.
Proposals for an Integrated Framework of Environmental Regulation: The proposals outlined by SEPA will deliver a simpler legislative framework which will enable SEPA to focus its greatest effort on the environmental problems that matter most. It will provide a more consistent range of enforcement tools so that proportionate and effective action can be taken against those who would damage the environment. The consultation that has been undertaken is built on previous consultations focusing on changes to the structure of environmental protection legislation in order to create a new, integrated framework for the permissions (licences, permits, rules, etc.) which will be used to control activities which could harm the environment.


Underground Drilling Access:

In September 2014, DECC published a response to the consultation on the proposal for underground access for the extraction of gas, oil or geothermal energy. Further details are accessible from the DECC website (PDF document).