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Extension to Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010


The Environmental Permitting Regulations (England and Wales) are being extended to cover water discharge consents and groundwater authorisations and further promotes the government’s intention to have a simpler, single permitting system. These extended regulations are due to come into force on 6 April 2010 and will replace the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007. In due course water abstraction and impoundment licences are expected to be covered by the regulations as well.

To find out more about the new regulations or how the changes will affect existing permits or authorisations you hold please visit the Environment Agency NetRegs web site here


Nitrate levels highest in shallow groundwater


The European Commission has for the first time since the Nitrates Directive was introduced in 1991 provided a comprehensive review of nitrate levels in European waters. A third of all the groundwater quality monitoring sites in the 27 EU Member States displayed an increasing trend in nitrate levels, while 15% of the sites had average nitrate levels in excess of the 50 mg/l drinking water limit. Central England forms one of the regions highlighted as having high nitrate concentrations (above 40 mg/l). The review also found that shallow groundwater has been most affected with the highest proportion of contaminated water lying between 5 and 15 metres below the ground surface. Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) which have been imposed to help reduce nitrate concentrations cover approximately 40% of the EU 27 Member State territory.

To read the European Commission Nitrate Review please visit


Geoscience horizon scanning to define objectives for the coming decade


Many prominent geoscientists think that a forward look in earth sciences particularly in relation to UK science strategies is a priority and are coordinating a forward look or horizon scanning exercise. The exercise is adopting a bottom up approach and aims to target earth science funders and policy makers. As part of the process over 100 key members of the earth science community met at the Geological Society for a workshop to discuss and make recommendations for the future earth science themes. The output of the exercise will take the form of an official document which will outline the objectives for the next decade including the investment, training and infrastructure necessary to achieve them.

There is now a period of consultation where comments on the workshop outputs and the proposed science themes are being sought. To find out more about the consultation please visit. Consultation closes on 15 March 2010.


Groundwater levels looking healthy despite sub-Arctic weather and frozen ground


Extreme weather conditions continued into January with widespread snow and ice causing frozen ground conditions. Despite the freezing weather precipitation across the UK’s major aquifers was high (in the range of 70 – 130%) and soil moisture deficits remained close to zero throughout the month. Recharge to major aquifers has been good during the early winter months and groundwater levels continue to rise as a result. Winter recharge totals are particularly good in the north-eastern and southern England and groundwater levels across the UK are close to average for this time of year. With soil moisture deficits still low the prospect of further winter recharge is good.

To read the latest hydrological summary for the UK please visit the Centre of Hydrology and Ecology’s (CEH) website.


Groundwater Regulations (2009) Guidance issued


DEFRA’s guidance on the Groundwater Regulations (2009) is now open to consultation. The guidance outlines how the Environment Agency will apply the new groundwater protection regulations and also covers the transition to licensing under the amended Environmental Permitting Regulations.

The Groundwater Regulations (2009) implement the Water Framework Directive’s (WFD) Groundwater Directive and replace the Groundwater Regulations (1998) which dealt with pollution prevention and groundwater protection.

In essence the new regulations only bring about small changes to existing procedures but there is a general shift away from prescriptive regulation towards risk-based assessment. List I and List II substances are re-named ‘hazardous substances’ and ‘non-hazardous pollutants’ respectively and definitions are more encompassing such that any substance may potentially be classed as a ‘non-hazardous pollutant’.

To read DEFRA’s guidance please visit

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