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Farm fertiliser threatens river water standards

BRITAIN WILL fail to meet new European water standards unless the government cracks down on farmers polluting rivers with fertiliser, water companies warned MPs last week.

Water companies fear they could be forced to increase sewage treatment standards so that river pollution from sewage outfalls declines, while agricultural pollution stands still.

They are concerned that they will have to spend £9bn helping Britain to comply with the higher demands of the new European Water Framework directive.

'That will be the most expensive and least benefit option to the environment, ' water trade association Water UK's chair Pamela Taylor told the Commons Environment, Food & Rural Affairs select committee.

The European Water Framework directive demands that Britain's rivers and canals achieve 'good ecological status' by 2015.

Taylor said water regulator Ofwat would not allow extra spending on compliance to be priced into water companies' 2005-2010 spending plans.

If there was no crackdown on farmers and it was decided that treatment standards should be increased, there could be a glut of sewage treatment works spending between 2010 and 2015, she warned.

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