Water supply and sewerage licensing: updating security and emergency measures directions

Closed 29 Aug 2017

Opened 1 Aug 2017


Under section 208 of the Water Industry Act 1991 (“WIA 91”), Defra’s Secretary of State and the Welsh Ministers can issue general or specific directions to water and sewerage undertakers (undertakers) and to water supply and/or sewerage licensees (licensees) in the interests of national security or to mitigate the effects of a civil emergency. To date two general directions have been issued:

The Security and Emergency Measures (Water and Sewerage Undertakers) Direction 1998 – commonly referred to as SEMD – directs undertakers to maintain plans to provide a supply of water at all times.

The Security and Emergency Measures (Water Undertakers) Direction 2006 places a qualified duty on undertakers to provide a water supply to a licensed water supplier where:

  • there is an access agreement in place, and
  • the licensed water supplier requests the water undertaker to provide it with a supply of water in the event that the licensed water supplier is unable to provide a supply to its customers due to an emergency or security event.

In addition, specific directions were issued to a small number of companies who were, at time of issue, licensed water suppliers. These directions are, in effect, company-specific versions of SEMD.

Defra and the Welsh Ministers have a statutory duty to consult on directions.

Why your views matter

In light of recent changes to the water supply licensing regime arising from the Water Act 2014 (“WA14”), we believe it right to ensure that the water sector continues to be properly protected against risks and threats to supply. We appreciate that, at this stage, there have been no inputs of water into the supply systems of undertakers by licensees; however we also recognise that this may not always be the case.

This consultation is to seek views from interested parties on two proposals, and is divided into two corresponding parts:

Part 1

A proposal to issue an updated version of the Security and Emergency Measures (Water Undertakers) Direction 2006, the principal change to which would be to amend the terminology used in the 2006 Direction from ‘licensed water supplier’ to ‘water supply licensee’.

Part 2

A proposal to issue a new general direction which would apply to all water supply licensees meeting certain conditions, and which would replace earlier, specific directions issued to individual companies. The essential content of the new direction would be very similar to that of the individual directions.

What happens next

We will publish a summary of responses once we have analysed comments. Should any new direction be issued following this consultation, we will lay it before both Houses of Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales.

The future

The changes proposed in this consultation are somewhat of a stopgap, made necessary by the recent changes to the licensing regime. Defra intends to conduct a more thorough review of security and emergency measures directions as resources allow, and it is conceivable that further changes may be proposed as a result.


  • Water/water Industry sector


  • Water Industry licencing