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Water Act, 1973.

Type of law
Date of original text

An Act to make provisions for a national policy for water, for the conferring and discharge of function as to water (including sewerage and sewerage disposal, fisheries and land drainage) and as to recreation and amenity in connection with water, for the making of charges by water authorities and other statutory water undertakers, and for connected purposes. Most of the articles have been repealed over the years with just few of them still in force, same as for the Schedules (except for parts of Schedules 3, 6 and 8).
The Act restructures the system of public authorities through which the management of water resources and the various functions relating to water, are exercised in England and Wales. Those functions are: water conservation, water supply, sewerage and sewerage disposal, prevention of river pollution, fisheries, land drainage and recreation. They relate to different sections of the water cycle, which have hitherto been controlled by different authorities, water supply by statutory water undertakers, rivers and water abstractions by river authorities, sewerage and sewerage disposals by local authorities. The object of the Act is to bring all these sections of the cycle, and the functions relating to them, under control of a single authority in any one region. This will permit in each region an integrated system of water management. There will be nine regional water authorities in England, and a Welsh National Development Authority.
Many of the powers and duties exercised by public authorities or statutory undertakers are therefore transferred to the water authorities, although some will continue to be exercised on behalf of the water authorities by other bodies. The powers and duties are in some cases modified, but many of the section of the Public Health Acts, earlier Water Acts and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts which relate to those functions remain in force.
Part I (repealed): This Part establishes the main structure of administrative authorities for the control of water and its various uses in England and Wales.
The Secretary of State for the Environment, the Secretary of State for Wales, and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will jointly formulate a national policy for water in England and Wales, and severally secure the effective execution of that policy. The execution will be by or under the supervision of water authorities, to whom the relevant Ministers can give general directions as to the exercise of their functions.
There will be a National Water Council to advise the Ministers and water authorities, and to provide some common services for those authorities. The Water Resources Board, the Central Advisory Water Committee, and the Water Supply Industry Training Board will cease to exist.
Part II (repealed, exception made for Art. 9 Transfer to water authorities of functions of river authorities). This Part confers on water authorities those powers and duties through which they will be able to put into effect an integrated scheme of mangaement for the control of water and its various uses within their areas. This they will do within the terms of the national policy formulated by the Ministers. There will be a Water Space Amenity Commission which, on matters relating to recreation and amenity, will advise on the formulation of policy, and will advise, encourage and assist water authorities.
Part III: This Part deals with finance. The water authorities will be required to be financially self-supporting, although the Secretary of State is empowered to make grants. Revenue for drainage purposes will be raised by precepts on local authorities, and by drainage charges, as in the past, and revenue for other purposes by charges made for services performed, facilities provided and rights made available by the authority. For the purposes of imposing charges the authorities are empowered to install meters on the premises to measure water supplied by the authority, or effluent received by them.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is empowered, on application by a water authority after 31 March 1978, to make an order to the effect that revenue for land drainage purposes shall be raised by charges in the same way as for other purposes.
Date of consolidation/reprint
Last modification has been made by Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 (S.I. 2009/463). Water Act 1973 is up to date with all changes known to be in force on or before 27 March 2009.
Source language


Legislation status
in force
Legislation Amendment