Monitoring Environmental Performance
Level 5
Appendix 3
Discharges to Water

Legislation relating to water pollution

Below is a list of legislation affecting UK industry concerning discharges to water. The main purpose of the legislation within the UK is to maintain a high quality of public drinking water, protect public health and to preserve the aquatic environment (the controlled water, such as groundwaters, rivers, lakes and seas.


  • WATER QUALITY: water in the natural environment or that which is utilised as potable supply water or in an industrial process

  • EFFLUENT QUALITY: water discharged to the environment after being used in a process. This is the main focus of this unit.

UK legislation accounts for effluent quality as it has a huge impact upon the quality of controlled waters. This is mainly recognised within the Control of Pollution Act (COPA) 1974, the Water Act 1989, the trade Effluents (Prescribed Substances and Processes) Regulations 1989 (this implements the UK's red list - refer to the IPC section in Unit 3), the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Water Industry Act 1991. EPA 90 also provides for effluent quality and conservation of excellent water quality standards as does the EA 1995.

The legislation governing releases to water is based upon a consent to discharge system. Here a company will be given an authorisation to discharge their industrial effluents to sewers or to controlled waters with the prior authorisation of the sewerage undertaker or the EA. Both authorities give consent limits for set parameters of a certain pollutant. Breaches of limits can result in large fines and prosecutions and other liabilities.


You may wish to consult a source such as Croner's or CEDREC in order to read more about the relevant legislation concentrating upon:

Administration controls
Secretary of state
Director General of water Services
Environment Agency
Water quality objectives
The common law controls
Criminal offences
Civil liabilities
Statutory nuisance
Environment Agency powers
Consent to discharge applications
Water protection zones
Nitrate sensitive areas
Good agricultural practice codes
Surface water regulaitons
Abandoned mines derived water pollution
Groundwater Regulations 1998
Relevant EU legislation
List I substances
List II substances