Groundwater Regulations

Applies to EnglandApplies to WalesApplies to Scotland

Title: Groundwater Regulations

Category: England, Wales and Scotland Law

Date: 1998

Reference: 1998 No. 2746  [Full text]

General Description:

The Groundwater Regulations 1998 implement in the UK some European legislation concerning the prevention of risks to groundwater from certain substances, labelled List I and List II.

Transitional provisions came into on 1 January 1999. Any applications made before 1 April will be deemed to have been granted until the Environment Agency has assessed them, which may take some time. Meanwhile, the activity may continue.

From 1 April 1999, applications will not be deemed to be granted. The activity must cease until an application has been approved. The Agency is empowered to prosecute unauthorised disposals.

Potential discharges of List I or List II substances must be subjected to prior investigation

LIST I Substances

  • No direct discharges will be permitted (subject to possible minor exceptions e.g. some recirculation and where groundwater is demonstrated as permanently unsuitable for use);
  • Passive activities that may result in unintentional discharges (e.g. manufacture & storage) do not require authorisation but necessary technical procedures implemented using Environment Agency approved Codes of Practice (not all of these are yet in place).

LIST II Substances

  • Can be authorised provided it is demonstrated that there will be no pollution;
  • Disposal or tipping that might result in an indirect discharge requires authorisation;
  • Other potential discharges do not require authorisation. However, any pollution is an offence.


  • All deliberate disposals, unless under a Waste Management Licence or subject to specified exemptions;
  • Septic tanks for isolated dwellings in vicinity of a groundwater abstraction (i.e. Groundwater Protection Zone I ). Note, septic tanks elsewhere are subject to Code of Practice;
  • Land spreading of sheep dip (soakaways cannot be authorised);
  • Disposal of pesticide washings (but spraying back onto a crop within product label instructions is a continuation of use and does not require authorisation)
  • Cemeteries;
  • Highway Drains.
If you have reason to suppose you could be discharging List I or List II substances to groundwater you must contact the Environment Agency or risk prosecution.

Pertinence to Agriculture: Groundwater, Water Pollution

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