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Failure to test EU laws hampers UK water ecology

BRITAIN'S EFFORTS to improve river ecology will lag behind those of other European countries because it is failing to test run the impact of new European water laws, MPs heard last week A senior European Commission official told the Commons Audit select committee that Britain was the only European Union state to have failed to run a pilot river basin management scheme.

These pilots are vital to the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive.

They will test run changes to the management of rivers caused by compliance with the new legislation.

The EWFD demands that all water bodies - lakes, canals, estuaries and rivers - in a river basin reach 'good ecological status' by 2015.

To ensure this, each river basin must have a designated 'river basin authority' with the power to regulate the environmental effect of water users. This would include water companies, farmers and shipping companies.

European Commission head of water Patrick Murphy told the committee that running pilot schemes is crucial in the effort to encourage water users to cooperate.

'Even the European Union pre-accession countries such as Lithuania are launching pilot schemes, ' he said.

Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) water and land expert John Ballard said a pilot for Britain was inappropriate.

He said such projects were more relevant for countries sharing large cross boundary rivers like the Rhine.

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