Helping you understand Welsh law


The law in respect of water can be broadly categorised into the water industry and water resources, including water quality.

Water industry law focusses on the regulation of water and sewerage undertakers. Water and sewerage undertakers are the companies which provide water and sewerage services. The areas covered by some water and sewerage undertakers straddle the border between England and Wales. The Welsh Ministers have functions in relation to any undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales.

Water resources law covers sources of water supply. These may be inland waters or underground strata.  The law covers the conservation, collection, preparation, use and disposal of these resources, and the protection of their quality.

The European Union Water Framework Directive sets out a framework for protecting and improving the water environment. EU law also covers drinking water standards, the collection and treatment of urban waste water, protecting water from being polluted by nitrates used in agriculture and the quality of bathing water. More information on EU law and the impact of EU Withdrawal is available here.

This section also deals with the law on water abstraction, which is the process of removing water from natural sources such as waters and lakes.

Key primary legislation

• Water Act 1989
• Environmental Protection Act 1990
• Water Consolidation (Consequential Provisions) Act 1991
• Water Industry Act 1991
• Environment Act 1995
• Water Industry Act 1999
• Water Act 2003
• Flood and Water Management Act 2010
• Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Act 2012
• Water Act 2014

Key Subordinate legislation

• Water Supply (Amendment to Threshold Requirement) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/301)
• Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/1566)
• Water (Prevention of Pollution) (Code of Good Agricultural Practice) (Wales) Order 2011 (SI 2011/1012)
• Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/675)
• Water Use (Temporary Bans) Order 2010 (SI 2010/2231)
• Private Water Supplies (Wales) Regulations 2017
• Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2018

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