Caution in order as Government pushes towards water pollution charges

Taxes and charges to discourage water pollution by direct and indirect discharges, pesticides, fertilisers and detergents were mooted in a consultation paper issued by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) on 27 November.1 Their revenue-raising potential is large - as is the challenge of shaping them to achieve genuine environmental gains. But the central issue raised - but not answered - by the paper is whether the benefits of a charging system for discharges would justify the progressive withering away of discharge consents and local quality objectives as the UK's basic tools for maintaining and improving water quality.

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