Water Act 2003 implementation
Implementation of the Act is subject to Commencement Orders, with the different provisions of the Act being brought into force at different times.
- ninth commencement order is the responsibility of the Department of Health
- eighth commencement order is the responsibility of the Department of Health
- seventh commencement order was signed on 23 March 2007
- sixth commencement order was signed on the 30 March 2006
- fifth commencement order was signed on the 29 September 2005
- fourth commencement order was signed on 29 March 2005
- third commencement order relates exclusively to fluoridation, and is the responsibility of the Department of Health
- second commencement order was signed on 23 September 2004
- first commencement order was signed on 8 March 2004
The Explanatory Notes attached to the orders set out the provisions commenced by them.
Further commencement orders will be produced in due course to facilitate delivery of the provisions to the target dates set out in the table below. In some cases, parts of sections (e.g. regulation making powers) will be commenced earlier in order to allow the provision to come fully into effect on the target date.
Further information about the implementation of the new regulatory arrangements in the Act.
|Subject||Implementation target date|
|Water resources management / abstraction licensing||
|Water Services Regulatory Authority (34)||
|Consumer Council for Water (35)||
|Better Regulation provisions not dependent on Authority and CCWater implementation||
|DWI powers (57)||
|Water Resale (59)||
|Flood defence (66, 67, 68, 69)||
|Reservoirs (74 - 80)||
|Water Conservation (81, 82, 83)||
|Fire hydrants (84)||
|Coal Mine Water Pollution (85)||
|Contaminated land (86)||
|Transfer of discharge consents (87)||
|Trade effluent consents (88, 89)||
|Self lay and requisitioning (90 - 97 & 99)||
Water Act 2003 - Parliamentary stages and publication
The Water Bill was Introduced in the House of Lords on the 19 February 2003 and published on 20 February 2003. The Bill finished its Lords stages on the 9 July 2003, and was introduced into the Commons on 11 July 2003. The Bill received Royal Assent on 20 November 2003, becoming the Water Act 2003. The Act was published on 28 November 2003.
The Water Act 2003 is accompanied by a full Regulatory Impact Assessment which sets out the Government's consideration of the costs and benefits of the provisions of the Act. Environmental and Equal Treatment Appraisals have also been carried out to assess the impact of the Act on the environment and on different groups in society respectively.
The Water Act 2003 and the Explanatory notes are priced documents which are published by The Stationery Office. Copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office, the Act is publication number ISBN 0 10 543703 4. See the Water Act 2003 on the OPSI website.
In November 2000, the Department published a draft Water Bill for public consultation, working towards achieving our goals of improving water conservation, protecting public health and the environment, and improving the service offered to consumers.
The Government's Response to the consultation was published in May 2002 and considered in detail the questions and concerns raised by respondents on the proposals set out in the draft Bill, and on other topics.
Because a wide range of work has led to the current position, this page seeks to bring together details of the preceding documents available on this web site and more widely.
The Water Act 2003 is in three Parts, relating to water resources, regulation of the water industry and other provisions.
Part 1 (Abstraction and impounding - water resources)
Understanding of environmental issues has developed significantly since the Water Resources Act 1963 created the current framework for abstraction licensing. The Government considers that we now need significant changes to the water abstraction authorisation system to ensure that we use water sustainably.
Therefore, as part of the 10-point plan it announced at the May 1997 Water Summit, the Government issued a consultation paper (The Review of the Water Abstraction Licensing System in England and Wales) in June 1998 proposing a number of administrative and legislative changes to the water abstraction licensing system in England and Wales.
In March 1999, Taking Water Responsibly set out what the Government decided in the light of the consultation. Many of the changes in Taking Water Responsibly were implemented within the current legislation (Water Resources Act 1991 & Environment Act 1995), but other changes needed new legislation, these are contained in the Water Act 2003. The key changes the Water Act 2003 introduced include:
- Time limits for all new abstraction licences
- Facility to revoke abstraction licences causing serious environmental damage without compensation
- Greater flexibility to raise or lower licensing thresholds
- Small and environmentally insignificant abstractions deregulated
- Licensing extended to abstractors of significant quantities presently outside the licensing system
- Water company drought plans and water resource management plans (both currently produced voluntarily) to become a statutory requirement.
Defra invited views in the consultation paper (Water Bill Consultation on draft legislation) on whether the draft clauses satisfactorily provide for the changes which were first consulted on in June 1998 and confirmed in March 1999.
Part 2 (New Regulatory Arrangements)
These clauses reflect a number of objectives, principally set out in the Government's July 1998 white paper: A Fair Deal for Consumers - Modernising the Framework for Utility Regulation. The Government wants to put the consumer at the heart of regulation and to make it more open, accountable and predictable.
The Government originally included these better regulation provisions in the Utilities Bill. They were removed because it was felt that it would be more appropriate to include them with the other reforms to water regulation coming forward in this draft Water Bill. The provisions reflect amendments made to the equivalent energy provisions during the passage of the Utilities Act 2000 through Parliament.
This part also contains provisions about competition in supply of water services. Following the consultation Competition in the Water Industry in England and Wales published in April 2000, the Government announced on 30 March 2001 that it would boost the opportunities for competition in water services.
Since then, the Government undertook further work with Ofwat, the industry and others and announced on 19 March 2002 that it proposes to extend competition for non-household customers that use large quantities of water. A consultation paper, Extending Opportunities for Competition in the Water Industry in England and Wales, was published on 31 July 2002.
Part 3 (Miscellaneous)
This part contains clauses that amend the Water Industry Act 1991, Environment Act 1995, Water Resources Act 1991, Reservoirs Act 1975 and Environmental Protection Act 1990. It will make a number of useful improvements to the regulatory system.
It carries forward proposals made in "Tuning Water Taking" following the analysis of the responses to the consultation paper Economic Instruments in Relation to Water Abstraction, and also includes provisions for block grants for flood defence work (which were consulted on in the Flood & Coastal Defence funding review), and lateral drains which were consulted on in Provision of New drains and Sewers in England and Wales.
Page last modified:
22 October 2009
Page published 2 May 2002