The costs of water quality: the regulators' turf war continues

The Office of Water Services (OFWAT) has added its voice to the debate about the cost of higher standards of drinking and surface water quality with an assessment of the implications for future water bills.1 But its consultation paper is likely to mislead consumers about their ability to influence the costs of complying with existing EC rules - and to provoke renewed conflict with the National Rivers Authority (NRA) over the speed at which river quality should be improved.

Relationships between the heads of the NRA and OFWAT have always been prickly. Lord Crickhowell sees it as the NRA's job to set priorities for the water environment. But Ian Byatt, Director of OFWAT, has repeatedly signalled his intention to safeguard the water companies from frequent changes in environmental regulatory requirements, and has been calling on the NRA to justify any new demands on the industry by means of cost/benefit analyses. <

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