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EU countries face legal action over water directive breaches

THE EUROPEAN Commission is this week preparing formal warning notices for up to eight member countries that have so far failed to write the new Water Framework Directive into their legislation.

The directive requires countries to manage water on a catchment basis using river basin management plans. Catchments must work towards achieving 'good ecological status' by implementing programmes of measures to improve water quality.

Member states were given from 2001 until the end of 2003 to transpose the directive into their own legislation. But it is understood that around half of the 15 states have yet to do so.

Commission officials in Brussels confirmed that a 'not communicated' letter will soon go to the defaulting governments, warning that further delays could result in action in the European Court. Fines can be imposed though the process has never reached that stage.

Countries that have complied now enter an 18 month long second stage to check conformity with the directive.

The UK still has work to do ahead of this stage as parts of north west England and southern Scotland are not yet covered by legislation.

The Department for the Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) confirmed that there is no legislation in place in several areas where catchments cross the Scottish border including the Solway Firth and the River Dee.

In these areas, the Scottish act of parliament and English regulations have to be merged.

'We are currently working on this last piece of legislation, ' said a DEFRA spokeswoman. 'This area is much more complicated as there are lots of tributaries crossing backwards and forwards.'

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