B4.6.1 England and Wales

You do not need detailed knowledge of legislation for the exam.

Please note that due to the IEMA ending the course, this section is no longer being up-dated.


Flood and Water Management Act 2010

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 provides for better, more comprehensive management of flood risk for people, homes and businesses, helps safeguard community groups from unaffordable rises in surface water drainage charges and protects water supplies to the consumer.

The Act implements Sir Michael Pitt’s recommendations requiring urgent legislation, following his review of the 2007 floods.

Serious flooding can happen any time. Climate projections suggest extreme weather will happen more frequently in the future.  This Act is central to reducing the flood risk associated with extreme weather.


Changes affecting Resevoirs:

The Act updates the Reservoirs Act 1975 and reflects a more risk-based approach to reservoir regulation through:

  • Reducing the capacity at which a reservoir will be regulated from 25,000m³ to 10,000m³; and
  • Ensuring that only those reservoirs assessed as a higher risk are subject to regulation
  • All undertakers with reservoirs over 10,000m³ must register their reservoirs with us
  • Inspecting engineers must provide a report on their inspection within 6 months
  • All undertakers must prepare a reservoir flood plan
  • All incidents at reservoirs must be reported


Changes affecting the regulation of activities on ordinary watercourses

An ‘ordinary watercourse’ is defined as a ‘watercourse’ that is not a ‘main river’. A statutory map showing ‘main rivers’ is available from the Environment Agency. A non-statutory map of main rivers is available on the Environment Agency website in the “What’s in your back yard?” section of their website.

Responsibility for regulating activities on ordinary watercourses in most areas of England and Wales transferred from the Environment Agency to lead local flood authorities (On 6 April 2012). Lead local flood authorities are Unitary Authorities where they exist and county councils elsewhere.


Who is responsible for managing ordinary watercourse activities after 6 April 2012:


In an Internal Drainage District area (about 10   per cent of the country)

Where the Environment Agency acts as the internal drainage board (IDB). Where the Environment Agency does not act as the internal drainage board.
Environment Agency will continue to undertake ordinary watercourse regulation. The local internal drainage board will continue to undertake ordinary watercourse regulation.
Other than in an Internal Drainage District area (about 90 per cent of the country)
 Ordinary watercourse regulation will transfer from the Environment Agency to the lead local flood authority.


Water Resources Act 1991

The Water Resources Act established the National Rivers Authority (now replaced by the Environment Agency), and regulates water pollution.

It established the regime, now controlled by the Environment Agency, to conserve, manage and control pollution of water resources, abstraction and impoundment, and offences for contravening and organising flood defences. It covers discharges to surface and ground waters, estuaries and coastal waters, and controls abstracting and impounding water.

Industrial operators have to pay the cost of repairing damage caused by their polluting discharges, largely by reimbursing the Environment Agency for the anti-pollution works it has carried out.

Under the Act, you must not “cause or knowingly permit” any poisonous, noxious or polluting material or solid waste to enter controlled water unless you have consent from the Environment Agency.

Water Resources Act 1991 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 [SI 3104] 

Amends Water Resources Act 1991 by extending the use of Water Protection Zones and Works Notices, in particular to deal with harm to aquatic ecosystems caused by the physical characteristics of a water course such as the condition of river banks.

Water Industry Act 1991

This Act consolidated previous legislation on water supply and sewerage services (including trade effluent consents) and allowed private sector companies to compete to be appointed as water and sewerage undertakers.

Under this Act, any organisation wishing to discharge into a sewer must obtain a Trade Effluent Discharge Consent from the sewerage undertakers (usually the local water company).

Land Drainage Act 1991

Under the Land Drainage Act 1991 a number of bodies have an interest in land drainage. They are the Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Boards, Local Authorities, Navigation Authorities and Riparian owners.

Watercourses are classed as either a Main River or an Ordinary Watercourse.

Main Rivers are regulated by the Environment Agency. Ordinary Watercourses are regulated by the Internal Drainage Boards, or where there is no Internal Drainage Board, by the Local Authorities.

Any organisation wishing to conduct works in, over, under or near to a watercourse should contact the relevant enforcing body for permission.

The distance that constitutes ‘near to a watercourse’ is variable, depending upon local byelaws. For example, in some areas of the South East it is 10m, whilst in some areas of the North East it is 5m.

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 [SI No. 675]

These Regulations provide a consolidated system of environmental permitting in England and Wales. They replace the:

  • Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 [SI No. 3538], which provided a system for permitting waste operations, mining waste operations, mobile plant and installations. Old licences and authorisations were converted into environmental permits automatically.
  • Water Resources Act 1991 [Sections of Part 3, Chapter 2], the system of consenting of water discharges.
  • Groundwater (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 [SI No. 2902], the groundwater permitting system.
  • Radioactive Substances Act 1993, the system of radioactive substances regulation.


Every “regulated facility” must be operated under the authority of an environmental permit. The combined classes of “regulated facility” include (unless they are exempt or excluded) every installation, mobile plant, waste operation, mining waste operation, radioactive substances activity, water discharge activity and groundwater activity, whether or not carried on as part of the operation of another regulated facility.

According to DEFRA, the aim of the Regime is to:

  • Protect the environment so that statutory and Government policy environmental targets and outcomes are achieved.
  • Deliver permitting and compliance with permits and certain environmental targets effectively and efficiently in a way that provides increased clarity and minimises the administrative burden on both the regulator and the operators.
  • Encourage regulators to promote best practice in the operation of facilities.
  • Continue to fully implement European legislation.


A booklet produced by DEFRA outlinging Environmental Permitting is available here: DEFRA EP 2010 Booklet.

Further information is provided in Section B4.9.5 Environmental Permtting.