Water - what is devolved?

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Senedd Cymru generally has legislative competence in relation to all aspects of water quality, water resources and water industry. This is subject to the reservations in Schedule 7A to the Government of Wales Act 2006 (GoWA 2006). Senedd Cymru's competence in relation to the water industry in particular must be read in light of the reservations in section C15 (water and sewerage) of Schedule 7A to GoWA 2006. These reservations provide that Senedd Cymru does not have competence to do anything which relates to the:

  • appointment and regulation of any water or sewerage undertaker whose area is not wholly or mainly in Wales (in other words water and sewerage undertakers operating wholly or mainly in England) ;
  • licensing and regulation of any licensed water supplier (this reservation is subject to an exception for regulation of water or sewerage licensee in relation to licensed activities using the supply or sewerage system of a water or sewerage undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales – i.e. the Senedd has competence in relation to the regulation of water and sewerage licensees using the systems of undertakers operating wholly or mainly in Wales).

These reservations recognise that the water industry is organised by reference to undertakers whose appointment areas do not correspond to the geographical border between Wales and England.  Rather, some undertakers’ areas such as Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, straddle the border. The intention is that the governance of undertakers whose areas are wholly or mainly in Wales is for Senedd Cymru, and this intention is generally reflected also in the way in which Ministerial powers are conferred (that is, the Welsh Ministers have functions in relation to any undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales).

In November 2017 the UK and Welsh Governments agreed an Intergovernmental Protocol on Water Resources to safeguard water resources, water supply and water quality for consumers in England and Wales. The Protocol came into force on 1 April 2018 and coincided with the replacement of the previous intervention powers the UK Government held in relation to the exercise of functions in Wales that had an effect on water related matters.