Letter: Undrinkable rules

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The Independent Online
Sir: The discussion document drawn up by Ofwat, the water industry's regulator, is timely ('Higher standards could add pounds 100 to water bills', 14 July).

In September the European Commission is holding a conference in Brussels specifically to discuss possible modifications to the water laws with water suppliers from all over the Community.

Given that no one wants to alter water standards that protect human health, what scope is there for modifying existing directives to make their implementation less costly, and for ensuring uniform compliance, EC-wide? I have two proposals: first, we must look at whether we need all the detailed standards the directives contain. At present drinking water has to comply with no less than 62 parameters. These standards are mandatory. No distinction is made between important health-related standards and those that relate to aesthetic considerations, notably appearance.

Secondly, we should ensure that allowance is made for the fact that compliance takes time. At the moment, either you comply with the law to the letter or you are breaking it. There is no possibility for a country to submit a programme to Brussels to show what it intends to do. Consequently, countries, like Britain, with active environmental groups (who seem reluctant to export their attentions to other countries with worse records) move in to attack Britain for 'breaking the law', even when our water authorities are struggling - as are their equivalents all over the Community - to comply.

What hope is there that the next applicants for EC membership - from Eastern Europe - can possibly live with EC water directives unless we make such changes?

Yours sincerely,

CAROLINE JACKSON

MEP for Wiltshire (Con)

London, SW1

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