C6.1 Regulations for water quality
Regulatory instruments for controlling water quality can be aimed at controlling discharges at source, or at managing the receiving environment. They also include regulations for waste minimisation.
Uniform emission or discharge standards apply to all emissions in a specific area (emission approach). Specific emission standards can be set in individual permits. These can be based on the pertinent ambient water quality standards (water quality approach) or on the best available technology (BAT), best practicable technology (BPT) or the best available technology not involving excessive costs (BATNEEC).
A combined approach implies that minimum uniform emission standards are set and that stricter standards are applied if the quality of the receiving water requires it, or if the way the water is used requires higher standards (e.g. for maintaining a delicate ecosystem). Specific regulatory instruments can also be used to protect aquatic ecosystems and riparian habitats, and for the rehabilitation of water resources.
Where discharge standards are difficult to apply, as in the case of non-point pollution, regulations may focus on the techniques or practices; in agriculture for example the best environmental practice approach, which will provide guidelines for the application of fertilisers and pesticides, is often used. Regulatory instruments can be developed for the protection of groundwater, taking into account the difficulties of monitoring and rehabilitating groundwater. Other types of regulatory instruments include:
The application of regulatory instruments for water quality control should be based on environmental goals that are set in the policy and planning stage (A1, B1.5, B2.3). Furthermore, administration and setting water quality standards must be closely linked with regulations for water quantity, as these are inter-dependent (C6.2).