Effluent Charging Systems in the EU Member States
The Directorate General for Research of the European Parliament (EP) launched - on request of the Committee of the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection - an external study on "Effluent Charging Systems in the EU Member States". This study focusses on economic instruments for regulating direct discharges of effluents into natural waters.
Economic instruments and principles such as the polluter-pays and cost-recovery principles have become a prominent feature in environmental policy debates and are increasingly being incorporated into the environmental law of the EU Member States, most importantly with the adoption of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The WFD gives prominence to the principle of cost-recovery for water services, in accordance with the polluter pays principle. The main objective is to ensure that environmental and resource costs are no longer borne by society in general, but are instead allocated to water users, thus becoming an internal part of economic decision-making (a process known as "internalisation of external costs"). In addition, Member States are required to ensure by 2010 that water-pricing policies provide adequate incentives for the efficient use of water resources. The WFD also requires that Member States establish effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for breaches of national water management legislation.
Before this background, Ecologic was commissioned to carry out a detailed analysis of the economic instrument "effluent charge". The main purpose of this study was to examine and evaluate the effluent charging and enforcement systems of the 15 EU Member States, including the institutional responsibilities and the conditions related to the issuing of permits to discharge effluents directly into natural waters. Another purpose was to collect information on the measures taken to secure the evidence in cases of water pollution by dangerous substances. Within the context of the study, an evaluation of the different effluent charging systems in the European Member States was undertaken. The information basis for the study is collected mainly from water authorities in the Member States, normally the ministries of environment, with the help of a questionnaire and a number of interviews.
The results of the study were discussed during a workshop on 8 November 2001 in the European Parliament in Brussels. The aim of this Workshop was to bring together Members of the European Parliament with respective representatives and experts from national governments of EU Member States and Accession Countries, research institutes and industry.