ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY Margaret Beckett finally issued guidance this week to water industry regulator Ofwat on the environmental improvements water companies must make between 2005-2010.
It covers all improvements necessary to meet UK and European legislation as well as some additional measures. It has been held up by six weeks following a Treasury challenge over costs in the programme.
'Our figures were challenged and discussed with the Treasury.
We then had to talk to the Environment Agency about the figures and consider other ways to achieve the same objectives, ' said environment minister Elliot Morley.
Water companies will now use this guidance to submit their final business plans to Ofwat and procure contracts with consultants and contractors to do the work.
In light of the delay, Ofwat is reviewing the 7 April deadline for submission of final business plans (NCE 4 March).
Work to be done includes the maintenance and replacement of existing assets as well as work to tackle sewer flooding in properties and prevent the overflowing of storm sewers into rivers and streams.
Ofwat had suggested a constrained investment programme to ministers of £15bn for 20052010. Water companies say they need to spend £20bn.